Earlier today, we reported our financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2011; net sales for the first quarter of 2011 increased by 75.3% to 294.4 million from 167.9 million for the first quarter of 2010. Our shipments in the first quarter of 2011 increased 43.3% to 317,221 from the first quarter of 2010.First quarter 2011, net income totaled $10.3 million or $0.94 per diluted share compared to net income of 1.7 million or $0.16 per diluted share for last year’s first quarter. We are pleased with our strong sales and earnings growth in 2011. We’ve just completed our best quarter in terms of both sales and net income since the third quarter of 2008. For the past two years, during the economic downturn and in addition to cost control, we have been strategically focused on growing our geographic and product footprint, increasing our value-added processes and investing in personnel. These initiatives have resulted in an insignificantly increased market share for Olympic Steel and positions us to accelerate our market share penetration and overall profitability in improving North American economy. As previously reported our 2010 annual shipments increased by 34% over 2009, which outpaced the total industry growth in steel shipments of 21%, as reported in the Metal Service Center Institute’s 2010 Market Activity Report. In the first quarter of 2011, we continue to gain market share as our shipments increased by 43.3% almost doubling the pace of the market increase in total steel shipments of 23.5% as reported by the MSCI. Our strong balance sheet, low debt levels and focus on asset turnover provide us with the access to funds for increased working capital need and our capital investment growth programs. We believe our commitment to capital investment in geography, equipment and people separate Olympic Steel when customers choose long-term supply relationships.
Later in the call, David will review our 2011 success and strategic initiatives, including startups in Gary, Indiana; Mount Sterling, Kentucky; Monterrey, Mexico; and Kansas City, Missouri.In addition to our internal expansion and CapEx program, we continue to actively explore growth via acquisition opportunities in 2011 and find this market more favorable in valuation than in the recent past. We are confident in our ability to provide tonnage and revenue growth and real value creation for our shareholders in a recovering economic environment in North America. Today we also reported that Olympic Steel’s Board of Directors approved a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.02 per share to be paid on June 15, 2011 to shareholders of record on June 1, 2011. Now, I will turn the call over to Rick to comment on Olympic’s financial results in detail. Rick Marabito Thank you Michael and good morning everyone. Michael spent some time on our tonnage and sales growth, so I will start my comments related to gross margins. As a percentage of net sales gross margin totaled 21.5% in the first quarter of 2011, up from 21.1% in the first quarter last year and up from 17.9% sequentially from the fourth quarter of 2010. Internally we measure our gross margin on a per ton basis and our first quarter 2011 margins per ton increased to $200 from $160 in the first quarter of 2010 and again on a sequential basis margins per ton increased by $49 a ton from $151 in the fourth quarter of 2010. Operating expenses in the first quarter of 2011 totaled $46.1 million, an increase of $14.1 million over the first quarter of the prior year. However, as a percentage of sales, our operating expenses actually declined to 15.7% from 19.1% last year. And on a per ton basis our operating expenses remain flat at $145 per ton for both periods. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com