Newsprint Maker Bowater Reports Loss

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(AP) Newsprint maker Bowater Inc. said Thursday that several unusual events, including a fiber shortage at a Canadian plant and capital improvements at a South Carolina mill, led to a larger than expected fourth-quarter loss.

Bowater reported a loss of $50.9 million, or 89 cents a share, compared with a loss of $66.6 million or $1.17 a share, for the same period in 2002.

The average loss expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call was 76 cents a share.

The company reported sales of $735.6 million for the quarter, up from $666.3 million a year earlier.

Newsprint prices were up $15 a metric ton from the third quarter. The company plans to increase prices by $50 a metric ton Feb. 1.

“Our 2003 financial results were very disappointing,” said Arnold M. Nemirow, Bowater chairman and CEO. “We believe our actions to reduce costs and improve productivity, and an anticipated recovery in product pricing, should significantly improve our results in 2004.”

For the year, Bowater lost $205 million, or $3.60 a share, compared with a loss of $142.4 million, or $2.50 a share, for 2002. Sales for 2003 were $2.72 billion, up from $2.58 billion the previous year. The annual losses exceeded analyst expectations, which averaged $3.36 a share.

Bowater shares rose 53 cents to $44.43 in Thursday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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