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BlueLinx reported today its net loss for the fourth-quarter ended Jan. 2 totaled $6.1 million, an improvement from its $7.6 million loss in the year-earlier period, despite a commodities-related 5.7% drop in net sales to $428.2 million.

The Atlanta-based distributor said the volume of lumber it shipped in the fourth quarter actually increased 6% from 2014's fourth quarter (which in its books ended Jan. 3, 2015), but prices for structural products were 12% lower. Gross margins increased to 12.0% from 10.95%, while selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) costs dropped $2.8 million year-over-year.

For all 2015, the company recorded a net loss of $11.6 million, improving from its $13.9 million net loss in fiscal 2014, on a 3% decline in revenues to $1.92 billion. Gross margins were flat at 11.6%, but SG&A costs declined by $15.4 million thanks in big part to $5.3 million worth of property sales.

BlueLinx likes to measure its progress based on adjusted EBITDA, which it defines as earnings plus interest expense and related items, taxes, stock compensation, depreciation, and amortization minus non-cash items and certain other adjustments. By the measure, adjusted EBITDA rose in the fourth quarter to $4.2 million from a year-earlier $1.9 million, while adjusted EBITDA for all 2015 improved marginally to $24.8 million from $24.6 million.

The company's press release led off with quotes from President and CEO Mitch Lewis noting that a variety of loan-related deals during the quarter marked "the first step in significantly reducing the company's financial leverage and enabling us to quickly monetize our real estate portfolio while we continue our working capital emphasis." The company's balance sheet as of Jan. 2 shows it holds $377.8 million worth of long-term debt notes.

Only after discussing the refinancings did Lewis talk about the fourth-quarter results, which he said "reflect the momentum we began to enjoy last year with our gross margin and profitability initiatives."