Kirby turnaround on inland acquisitions

Kirby turnaround on inland acquisitions

Kirby Corp. said today that fourth-quarter net earnings were $11.05 million, against a net loss of $2.075 million a year ago.

The Houston-based barge operator said revenue for the marine transportation segment increased 11% for the quarter ended Dec. 31 and 18% for all of 2003 against the corresponding periods in 2002. Kirby said the substantial increases reflected the October 2002 purchase of oil barges and towboats, and management of the fleet of Coastal Towing and the January 2003 purchase of the inland tank barge fleet of SeaRiver Maritime.

Operating income for the marine transportation segment increased 3% for the quarter and 4% for the year. Kirby said in a statement that it has had "limited success" in passing through rate hikes in contract renewals, trimming margins.

Kirby noted that during the first nine months of 2003, contract rates remained relatively flat. During the fourth quarter of 2003, contract pricing improved marginally for some contracts which were renewed. Spot market rates fluctuated over and under contract rates during the year, depending on market demand, fuel prices, weather conditions and other factors.

Kirby expects earnings for first quarter of 2004 of 30-36 cents per share compared with 28 cents for the year-ago quarter. For the year earnings are estimated in the $1.85-1.95 range. This guidance compares with 2003 earnings of $1.67 per share.