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Gibraltar earnings top analyst forecasts

Gibraltar Industries' stock dropped 9 percent in late afternoon trading Friday after company warned that its first-quarter would be weaker than analysts expected and that its profits for all of 2017 could lag behind forecasts.

Gibraltar Industries said it lost $7.7 million during the fourth quarter because of the sale of its bar grating business, but the Hamburg building products manufacturer's earnings from its remaining operations still managed to top analyst forecasts despite lower sales.

Frank Heard, Gibraltar's CEO, said the improvement in its operating profits stems from the company's efforts to focus more of its resources on the biggest and most profitable portions of its business, while shedding units that underperform. That focus led Gibraltar to sell three businesses last year, including the bar grating business and a solar racking operation in Europe that generated more than $100 million in annual revenues.

Excluding the costs associated with the sale of the three businesses, Gibraltar's adjusted profits improved by 4 percent, despite an 18 percent decline in revenue that was caused by a combination of the divestitures, weaker industrial markets and lower revenues from its renewable energy business.

Gibraltar shares fell by $3.80 to $40.50 in late trading. The stock is down 3 percent this year.

Gibraltar's overall loss equaled 24 cents per share, compared with a profit of $200,000, or a penny per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time costs, the company's adjusted profits rose to $9.5 million, or 30 cents per share, from $9.1 million, or 29 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts had expected the company to earn 24 cents.

Gibraltar's sales fell by 18 percent to $232 million from $282 million.

The company said it expects its sales to be relatively flat for the third straight year in 2017, mainly because the lost revenue from the divestitures will offset moderate growth in its remaining operations. Gibraltar said it expects its sales to hover around $1 billion this year.

But because Gibraltar's remaining businesses are becoming more profitable, the company expects its adjusted earnings for this year to rise by about 8 percent to between $1.75 and $1.80 per share, compared with $1.67 per share last year.

Gibraltar said it expects its first quarter to be its weakest this year, with adjusted earnings of 17 cents to 21 cents per share, mainly because a lower backlog of orders in its renewable energy unit is expected to lead to a 15 percent decline in sales.

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