Loss from continuing operations at Louisiana-Pacific Corp. (LP) widened during the fourth quarter to $46.2 million, compared to a $2.4 million loss during the same period a year ago, the company announced today. Net sales at the Nashville, Tenn.-based manufacturer declined 1% to $312.2 million for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

For the year, the company again plunged deeper into the red with a $161.2 million loss from continuing operations compared to a $32.2 million loss during 2010. Net sales for the year also dipped slightly to $1.36 billion from $1.38 billion a year ago.

“Demand for building products slowed in the fourth quarter due to seasonality and inventory reduction actions taken by our customers at year end,” said Rick Frost, CEO of LP. “For the full year, U.S. single family housing starts were down 9% to a 50-year low, which made 2011 another tough year for LP.”

As for its subsidiaries, the manufacturer’s oriented strand board (OSB) business posted a $15.5 million operating loss during the fourth quarter, slipping deeper into the red from a $12.6 million loss a year ago. Net sales improved a little over $3 million to $130.6 million for the quarter.

For the year, the OSB segment plummeted into the red with a $63.5 million operating loss after recording a $25.8 million profit in 2010. Net sales declined 10% to $542 million.

Production volume for OSB manufactured under joint venture operations or under sales arrangements and sold to LP during the quarter declined 1% to 750 million square feet, for 3/8-inch OSB, and for the year, production rose by 125 million square feet to reach 3.13 billion square feet. 

For OSB (3/8-inch basis) produced at wood-based siding mills, production volume fell 13% to 46 million square feet, while year-end results saw production slip 10% to 186 million square feet.

LP’s siding segment reported a 48% decrease in fourth quarter operating profit to $6.1 million, while sales slipped 9% to $93 million. The segment’s year-end results revealed an 18% slide, to $42 million, in operating profit, while sales increased by about $2 million to $429.8 million.

Production volume for the segment (3/8-inch basis) was 208 million square feet for the quarter, down 14% from the same period a year ago. For the year, production increased 2% to 774 million square feet.

The engineered wood products segment improved its fourth quarter operating loss to $3.6 million from a $5.4 million loss a year ago. Net sales for the quarter slipped just under $3 million to $46.4 million. For the year, the segment posted an operating loss of $15.5 million, up from the $21.3 million loss in 2010, while net sales rose 6% to $203.3 million.

The segment produced 13 million lineal feet of engineered I-Joist during the quarter, a 2 million lineal feet increase from 2010’s fourth quarter, despite a 15% decline of 56 million lineal feet for the year.

LP’s engineered wood operations also manufactured 1.3 million cubic feet of laminated veneer lumber and laminated strand lumber during the quarter, a slight decline from last year. Year-end results included a 7% increase in production to 6.3 million cubic feet.

South America segment sales grew 34% to $33.8 million for the quarter, which helped the segment swing into the black with a $1.6 million operating profit during the final quarter of 2011. The segment’s year-end results included a 61% increase in operating profit, to $11.6 million, as well as a 16% improvement in net sales to $144.9 million.

“Recently we have seen some hopeful signs of growth in the North American housing market, which is good news,” Frost said. “Because the economy is still fragile, with slow job growth and little progress made to address our country’s underlying fiscal issues, we are planning on a slow recovery in 2012.”