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A sharp rise in sales helped offset weaker profit margins and allowed Gibraltar Steel Corp. to boost its second-quarter earnings by 13 percent, the Hamburg-based steel processor said Tuesday.

Gibraltar said the improved earnings were due to its recent acquisitions and the $46 million investment it has made in its facilities during the last three years.

"We expect to finish 1997 on a strong note, with sales in the range of $450 million to $475 million, as we generate continued growth from our recent acquisitions and we continue to feel the impact of the capital expenditures made during 1995-96," said Brian J. Lipke, Gibraltar's chairman and chief executive officer.

Gibraltar said its profits rose to $4.7 million, or 38 cents per share, from $4.16 million, or 40 cents per share, a year ago, when the company had about 2 million fewer shares outstanding before its June 1996 secondary public stock offering.

The company's earnings have grown by at least 11 percent during each of the last seven quarters.

Gibraltar's sales shot up by 38 percent to $119.2 million from $86.5 million the year before.

Most of the increase in sales came from the company's January acquisition of Southeastern Metals Manufacturing Co. Inc., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based metal building products manufacturer, and its purchase in May of a steel heat treating plant in Athens, Ala. from Specialty Heat Treating Inc.

Excluding those acquisitions, Gibraltar's sales from existing operations rose by about 10 percent, said Walter T. Erazmus, the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer.

"Business has been very stable and we anticipate that continuing for the remainder of the year," he said.

For the first half of this year, Gibraltar's profits rose by 22 percent to $9.1 million, or 74 cents per share, from $7.5 million, or 73 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales increased by 35 percent to $227.5 million from $168.5 million.

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