* Q4 loss 28 cents/shr vs Street view profit 3 cents/shr
* Q4 sales $256.8 million vs $402.2 million
* Stock down 6 percent after hours (Adds CEO comments, share movement)
NEW YORK, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Century Aluminum Co (CENX.O) posted a narrower fourth-quarter loss on Tuesday, but missed Wall Street estimates for a small profit, and its stock fell more than 6 percent in after-hours trading.
“Century’s operating environment generally improved during the latter part of 2009, in concert with global economic conditions,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Logan Kruger. “Demand for aluminum and other industrial metals has remained stable in the developed economies.”
“Despite these encouraging signs, aluminum inventory levels remain elevated and higher cost capacity in the western world has continued,” he added.
Kruger said Century would expend significant effort on the development of a new smelter at Helguvik, Iceland, with an anticipated restart of major construction activity in 2010.
The net fourth-quarter loss was $24.4 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $693.5 million, or $14.14 per share, in the 2008 quarter, the Monterey, Calif.-based company said.
Sales dropped to $256.8 million from $402.2 million, as shipments of primary aluminum fell to 147,000 tonnes from 202,260 tonnes a year earlier.
Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 3 cents per share and revenue of $247.29 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. In the 2009 quarter, there were almost 80 percent more shares outstanding than in the 2008 quarter.
In electronic trading after the Nasdaq closed, Century’s stock was down to $11.88 from its regular close of $12.74.
Century said results were hurt by net after-tax expense of $11.5 million related to the purchase of downside aluminum price protection for a portion of its U.S. production through 2010.
There was also a charge of $5.3 million for losses on early extinguishment and modification of debt and a $17.2 million charge for portions of power costs at its Hawesville, Kentucky smelter.
These negatives were offset somewhat by a $6.6 million benefit related to discrete income tax adjustments, the company said.
Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Carol Bishopric, Bernard Orr