Eagle Materials Inc.'s gypsum wallboard and paperboard unit recorded an 88% drop in operating earnings to $1.1 million in its fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31, primarily because of lower prices, the company reported today.

Revenues from gypsum wallboard and paperboard for the fourth quarter dropped 8% from the January-March 2009 period to $67.2 million. "The average gypsum wallboard net sales price for this quarter was $86.30 per MSF [million square feet], 21% less than the same quarter a year ago," the company said. The company instituted a price hike for wallboard on March 15. "Gypsum wallboard sales volumes of 448 million square feet were about the same as the prior year's fourth quarter. The average paperboard net sales price this quarter was $436.88 per ton, 5% less than the same quarter a year ago. Paperboard sales volumes for the quarter were 57,000 tons, 24% greater than the same quarter a year ago."

Within the unit, operating earnings for gypsum wallboard swung to a $1.1 million loss from a $5.2 million profit a year-earlier on a 17% drop in revenue to $46.7 million. Meanwhile, gypsum paperboard's operating earnings sank 51% in the quarter to $2.2 million even though revenues jumped 40% to $15.5 million.

Dallas-based Eagle sold one of its wallboard facilities during the quarter, netting $2.5 million.

For fiscal 2010--the 12-month period that ended March 31--operating earnings from the gypsum wallboard and paperboard unit shrank 9% to $16.2 million on a 24% decline in revenue to $264.5 million. Gypsum wallboard's operating earnings rose 16% to $1.4 million despite a 25% fall in revenues to $210.7 million, while gypsum paperboard earnings shrank 11% to $14.8 million on an 19% drop in revenue to $53.8 million.

Aside from gypsum wallboard and paperboard, Eagle also produces cement, concrete and aggregates. For the fourth quarter, company-wide operating earnings were cut in half to $9.8 million from $20.4 million a yer earlier. And for the fiscal year, net earnings reached $29 million on revenue (including a joint venture with Texas Lehigh Cement Co.) of $533.3 million.