Updated from Jan. 10

Alcoa ( AA) shares fell early Tuesday after the company late Monday said fourth-quarter earnings slipped from a year ago, despite sharply higher revenue, as profits were held back by higher energy and freight costs.

The company earned $268 million, or 30 cents a share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with earnings of $291 million, or 33 cents a share, a year ago. Sales rose 12% from a year ago to $6.04 billion. Excluding discontinued operations in the latest quarter, Alcoa earned 39 cents a share, 2 cents short of the Thomson First Call consensus estimate.

Shares were recently down 37 cents, or 1.2%, to $30.10 in premarket trading.

Alcoa's latest quarter reflected a $77 million charge for asset divestitures, principally the company's telecommunications business.

For all of 2004, Alcoa said, overall debt was cut by more than $1.1 billion, reducing the debt-to-capital ratio to 29.3 from 35.1 at the end of 2003. Capital expenditures totaled $475 million in the quarter, and the company expects to spend about $2.5 billion on capital projects in 2005.