“Our ChemRock/Rail end-use market accounted for 12% of quarterly aggregates product line shipments and experienced a 3% decline in heritage shipments compared with the prior-year quarter. In addition to being compared with a strong prior-year quarter, this reduction reflects lower ballast shipments that continue to be affected by a decline in coal traffic on the railroads. This was partially offset by increased agricultural lime shipments in our Midwest Division, which reaped the benefits of favorable weather during the quarter. On an annual basis, while ballast shipments were lower compared with 2011, volumes for 2012 were in line with the five-year historical average.
“Geographically, energy-sector shipments and strength in both residential and nonresidential end-use markets led to an 8.7% increase in heritage aggregates product line shipments in the West Group. The Mideast and Southeast Groups had heritage volume growth of 1.2% and 1.7%, respectively. Once again, aggregates shipment levels varied by market, with notable strength in Texas, Florida, Indiana and Charlotte, North Carolina. On the contrary, shipment weakness was noted in the Ohio and Kansas City markets, which experienced reductions in state infrastructure projects; Virginia, where several large nonresidential projects were completed earlier in the year; and West Virginia, which saw a decline in sales of asphalt stone.
“Our overall heritage aggregates product line average selling price increased 1.0%, reflecting expansions in all of our reportable groups. This growth was led by the 2.9% increase in our Southeast Group, which was due to pricing increases and product mix. Our West Group achieved a 1.3% increase in pricing, while our Mideast Group improved 0.5%.
“Heritage aggregates product line production increased 6% to meet shipment activity. Our operations personnel leveraged efficiencies gained through higher production volumes and reduced our heritage cost per ton by 2%.“Specialty Products continued its strong performance and, for the quarter, net sales were $50.6 million and earnings from operations were $15.8 million, or 31.3% of net sales. For the full year, this business established new records for net sales and earnings from operations, which were $202.2 million and $68.5 million, respectively. On November 1, our new dolomitic lime kiln at the Woodville, Ohio, facility became operational and contributed $3 million of net sales for the fourth quarter. Going forward, the new kiln is expected to provide annual net sales, ranging from $22 million to $25 million with margins comparable to existing operations.