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Ameron Reports $940,000 Quarterly Loss

Manufacturing: Just-ended strike at Fontana plant, weather, Navy deployment cited as reasons.

March 26, 1998|STEPHEN GREGORY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Pasadena-based Ameron International Corp., a maker of steel and concrete pipes for water-distribution systems, reported a fiscal first-quarter loss Wednesday, the same day workers at its Fontana plant voted to end a six-week strike that company officials blamed in part for the poor results.

The company reported a net loss of $940,000, or 23 cents a share, for the quarter ended Feb. 28. That contrasts with record net income of $938,000, or 23 cents, in the year-earlier period. The company reported revenue of $102.5 million for the period, versus $108.3 million a year ago.

News of the results tripped up Ameron's share price on the New York Stock Exchange, sending it down $1.81 to close at $57.38, off from a record $70 reached in October.

While the strike at the company's 104-employee facility in Fontana was a factor in the loss, spokesman Dan Stracner said, the stoppage played only a minimal role, mostly delaying delivery of large-diameter steel piping to municipal water distribution projects.

Having a bigger impact, Stracner said, was El Nino-related weather along the West and Gulf coasts that fouled up plans on large-scale construction and maintenance projects and postponed orders for pipes and Ameron's anti-corrosion paints.

"We anticipate accelerated deliveries throughout the rest of the year," President James Marlen said in a statement. "Management remains confident about Ameron's overall strategic direction."

Stracner also said the U.S. standoff with Iraq over U.N. weapons inspections sidetracked paint orders from the Navy, which scrapped scheduled maintenance plans for some ships that were sent instead to the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, members of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers voted 66 to 27 to end their walkout at the Fontana plant. The vote finalized months of negotiations in which employees at all three local Ameron plants were asked to ratify new three-year contracts.

Workers at plants in Etiwanda, in San Bernardino County, and South Gate were able to reach agreement with the company without striking, even though both groups worked as many as 14 days without contracts.

The workers in Fontana decided to strike Feb. 11 after more than two months of negotiations failed to produce a new labor agreement. A federal mediator was brought in to help break the impasse, and on Wednesday union members voted to accept higher monthly health insurance premiums in exchange for an 8% wage hike over three years.

"We're happy to be going back to work," union representative Dan Piraino said. "We weren't earning anything for our families out there on the picket line. We put up a good fight and got the company's attention."

The Etiwanda and South Gate plants manufacture primarily concrete pipes, Stracner said, and were not equipped to take up the slack from the idle Fontana plant, which specializes in high-pressure steel pipe. In addition, he said, the company opted to honor the picket line outside the plant for most of the strike, crossing only once to pick up a completed order for delivery.

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