STEELMAKER Tax benefit helps ISG soar in 4th quarter

Shares rose 17 cents to close at $40.68 Thursday.
RICHFIELD, Ohio (AP) -- International Steel Group Inc., soon to become part of Mittal Steel Co. NV, swung to a solid fourth quarter profit of more than $600 million, helped by a tax benefit and improving steel sales.
For the three months ending Dec. 31, ISG, which operates a plant in Warren that it bought from bankrupt LTV Steel three years ago, earned $606 million, or $5.87 per share, compared with a loss of $48.7 million, or 57 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago, the steelmaker said late Wednesday. Quarterly sales were $2.55 billion, up from $1.42 billion a year earlier.
The most recent fourth-quarter results include a tax benefit of about $390 million, or $3.78 per share, reflecting ISG's Bethlehem Steel acquisition and a valuation allowance.
Excluding that tax benefit, ISG earned $216.1 million, or $2.10 per share, exceeding the $2.04 per-share estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.
On the exchange
ISG shares rose 17 cents to close at $40.68 in Thursday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $25.45 to $43.50.
Growth from acquisitions and a strong global steel market also helped the company in the quarter, ISG said.
For all of 2004, ISG's net income was $1.03 billion, or $9.99 per share, on sales of $9.02 billion, compared with a 2003 loss of $97.1 million, or $1.26 per share, on sales $4.07 billion.
Excluding the fourth-quarter tax benefit, ISG earned $637.5 million, or $6.20 per share in 2004. Analysts had predicted $6.30 per share for the year.
ISG said it expects its $4.5 billion sale to steel tycoon Lakshmi N. Mittal to close by March 31.
Metals giant
Mittal Steel, based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, combined with ISG would be a metals giant with sales of about $32 billion, 70 million tons of steel production capacity and 165,000 employees.
ISG was formed in 2002 when New York buyout firm WL Ross & amp; Co., bought up steel plants left idled in LTV Corp.'s bankruptcy. It has become one of the largest steel producers in North America, with about 12,000 employees, and the nation's largest maker of steel from raw materials.
In April 2003, ISG acquired bankrupt Bethlehem Steel Corp., and a year later won a bidding war for the nation's No. 2 tin maker, Weirton Steel Corp. In June 2004, ISG acquired Georgetown Steel Co., of Georgetown, S.C., boosting the Cleveland area company's steel capacity to 22 million tons.