Friday, January 29, 1999

A&B records
$21.4 million loss

Large one-time write-offs
contribute to the shortfall

By Russ Lynch


Massive write-offs for one-time expenses led to a big loss at Alexander & Baldwin Inc. and even without those unusual items the company had a rough fourth quarter.

A&B today reported a net loss of $21.4 million, or 48 cents a share, for the three months through Dec. 31, compared with a net profit of $20 million, or 45 cents a share, in the same period of 1997.

Info Box The company had an after-tax loss of $16 million in the latest period from the recapitalized and partial sale of its California & Hawaiian Sugar Co. subsidiary. Piled on top of that was an after-tax charge of $12.8 million from writing down the value of a 1,050-acre real estate development on Kauai because of poor market conditions.

Revenues in the latest quarter were $328 million, down 2.2 percent from $335.3 million in the last quarter of 1997.

"Even when all one-time items are eliminated, A&B's earning per share are still disappointing, declining from $1.53 a share in (full-year) 1997 to $1.33 a share in 1998," said W. Allen Doane, A&B president and chief executive officer. "We recognize that A&B has much greater potential and we are committed to realizing it."

A&B's Nasdaq-traded stock closed down 3 cents a share today at $20.22 on Wall Street.

The Honolulu-based company reported an operating profit, before the big deductions, of $31.1 million for the latest quarter, down 19.8 percent from an operating profit of $38.8 million in the last quarter of 1997.

The fourth-quarter operating profit at its biggest subsidiary, Matson Navigation Co., was down 16.8 percent at $15.9 million, vs. $19.1 million in the 1997 quarter. In a separate report Wednesday, Matson reported lower container and automobile volume in its West Coast-Hawaii business.

A&B's property leasing business had a fourth-quarter operating profit of $5.4 million, 6.9 percent lower than the leasing profit of $5.8 million in the year-earlier period. Property sales were down, resulting in a fourth-quarter operating profit of $1.4 million from that part of A&B's business, an 80.8 percent decline from $7.3 million in the 1997 quarter.

Despite lower revenues in its food products business, which includes sugar, A&B had a 30.5 percent increase in the fourth-quarter food products operating profit, at $7.7 million vs. $5.9 million.

A&B's full-year result was a net profit of $25.1 million, or 56 cents a share, down 69.2 percent from $81.4 million, or $1.80 a share, for 1997. In addition to the fourth-quarter sugar and real estate write-offs, A&B took an after-tax charge of $5.8 million last year for an accounting change relating to workers compensation. The full-year comparison was also affected by $12.5 million after-tax gain in 1997 from the settlement of protracted litigation over an insurance claim. Full-year revenues of $1.31 billion were up 4 percent from $1.26 billion in 1997.

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