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GIBRALTAR STEEL'S PROFITS UP 12 PERCENT IN QUARTER

Gibraltar Steel Corp. said Thursday that its first-quarter profits rose by 12 percent as the Buffalo-based steel processor's sales shot up by 20 percent.

Gibraltar's profits rose to $2.28 million, or 22 cents per share, from $2.04 million, or 20 cents per share, a year ago.

The company's sales increased to a record $49.9 million from $41.7 million a year earlier.

"I am very pleased with the achievements of the first quarter," said Brian J. Lipke, Gibraltar's chairman and chief executive officer. "They are the result of the improved economy coupled with carefully selected investments in new plants and equipment."

The company also has increased its market share within the automotive companies and other industries that it services, Lipke said.

Gibraltar also said its joint venture with Samuel Pickling Co. will begin construction of a new steel pickling line in Twinsburg Township, Ohio, on Tuesday.

The new facility will use the latest technology in steel pickling, which is a cleaning process that removes residue from the surface of steel after it has been hot rolled.

The new line will increase the joint venture's capacity by 400,000 tons a year, increasing its maximum annual output to 760,000 tons.

The plant is scheduled to begin operation during the second quarter of next year.

Lipke said that that investment, combined with the $7.2 million the company recently said it would spend for two furnaces and to refurbish a mill, will help Gibraltar improve its performance.

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