U.S. Steel ( X) shares melted down Tuesday after acquisitions and blast furnace outages converged to pummel its fourth-quarter profit.

The Pittsburgh-based steel giant said it made $116 million, or 29 cents a share, down from year-earlier earnings of $341 million, or $2.50 a share. Figured in those numbers were one-off inventory-transitioning costs following recent buyouts -- Lone Star Technology in June and Stelco in October -- as well as a heavy charge from a "voluntary early retirement" program in its Slovakian unit.

In a conference call, CEO John Surma said the retirement program should save the company about $25 million this year and $30 million annually thereafter.

Excluding those one-off expenses, U.S. Steel's profit came to $1.27 a share this past quarter, which severely misses the average analyst estimate for $2.19 a share, according to Thomson Financial. A year ago, adjusted income panned out at $2.78 a share.

Causing considerable pain this year were unplanned blast furnace outages at its new Canadian unit (formerly Stelco), which lost the unit a month of production, according to Surma.

The unit took an operating loss as a result, helping to pull total flat-rolled income down 69% sequentially to $53 million, though that's still up 71% from a year earlier. Total flat-rolled operating capacity stood at just 82%, weighed down by 60% operating capacity at the Canadian unit.

Surma commented in the conference call that U.S. Steel can usually "work around" the financial damage of unplanned outages but these particular events hadn't been foreseen. Compounding events further, he added, were November and December's usual cyclical weakness.

Over in Europe, operating capacity was at just 79% for the quarter thanks to two planned blast furnace outages. But that unit's 53.3% year-on-year profit slide was blamed primarily on euro-based price declines, which the company said were pressured by high levels of imports -- "particularly from China" -- and of service-center inventories.

The company's tubular-steel business was the only earnings winner here, turning a profit that climbed 12% from the prior quarter to $83 million, though that's also down substantially year over year. Net sales grew 4% sequentially and 20.2% from last year to $4.54 billion, which surpasses analysts' $4.3 billion expectations.

As for things to come, Surma said he's "cautiously optimistic" that flat-rolled prices will get better from here on out. Euro-based prices should also improve, albeit with offsets from rising raw-materials costs, and Canadian facilities have been running "much more reliably" lately, according to the company. Chief Financial Officer Gretchen Haggerty commented that "we are optimistic about our results for the next several quarters," over which the effects of climbing spot prices and merger-related benefits should slowly come to fruition.

As additionally relayed, however, the "overall direction of the U.S. economy" will factor in significantly, especially in the second half of the year.

Also today, the company announced it had bumped up its quarterly dividend by a nickel to 25 cents a share.

U.S. Steel shares closed down $7.49, or 6.8%, to $102.58.