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U.S. Steel Profits Tumble, Company Blasts Clinton
PITTSBURGH — U.S. Steel, the largest U.S. steel producer, reported a 50 percent drop in 1998 fourth quarter profits on Friday and complained that the White House was not doing enough to halt a flood of cheap steel imports.

Including reduced interest expenses and the cost of a voluntary early retirement package, profits fell to $76 million, or 81 cents per share, from $152 million, or $1.64 per share, a year ago.

Excluding the special items, the results easily beat Wall Street expectations: income totalled $59 million, or 63 cents per share, compared with analysts' consensus earnings estimate of 32 cents.

With a surge in steel imports that started in mid-1998 that the company described as "unprecedented volumes" at "predatory prices," quarterly revenue fell 22 percent, to $1.4 billion, from $1.8 billion in the 1997 quarter. Production at all company facilities was cut to less efficient levels, it said.

U.S. Steel, voicing the same concerns that the steel industry had when President Clinton in early January proposed tax breaks and pressure on Japan to help U.S. companies, said it was considering formal complaints against more countries.

"Unfortunately, the administration's plan was extremely disappointing and fell far short of what will be required to rectify the import crisis and the extreme hardship it is imposing on the domestic steel industry, its workers and their communities," USX Corp. Chairman Thomas Usher said. U.S. Steel is part of USX.

About 400 U.S. Steel workers accepted the voluntary buyout plan, out of 550 eligible employees, resulting on a fourth-quarter charge of $10 million.

In early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, bucking a sell-off in the broader markets, U.S. Steel shares rose 12.5 cents to $27.125. In September, the stock hit $20.44, its lowest level in at least five years.

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