* Q4 EPS C$0.30 vs loss of C$0.42 a year-ago
* Boosts dividend by 10 percent to C$0.275/share
By Julie Gordon
TORONTO, Feb 17 Russel Metals (RUS.TO) reported a return to fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, thanks to strong sales and rising steel prices.
The metals processing and distribution company earned C$17.9 million ($18.2 million), or 30 Canadian cents a share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31. That compared with a loss of C$25.2 million, or 42 Canadian cents a share, a year ago.
Analysts, on average, had expected earnings of 28 Canadian cents a share according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company said higher steel prices and improved volumes boosted its revenues, and said the trend was continuing into the first quarter of 2011.
Revenue rose to C$561.5 million from C$432.7 million.
"We remain cautiously optimistic that we will see continued improved results during the first half of 2011," Chief Executive Brian Hedges said in a press release.
Russel said it earned C$70 million for the full year in 2010 on revenue of C$2.2 billion.
The Toronto-based company will pay a dividend of 27.5 Canadian cents a share on March 15.
Russel sells steel and steel products, and produces specialized steel tubing for the energy sector.
The company's shares, which gained almost 30 percent in 2010, closed up 0.69 percent at C$24.98 on Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
($1=$0.98 Canadian) (Editing by Rob Wilson)