United States Gypsum Co.'s operating loss deepened to $46 million in the third quarter from $31 million in the year-earlier period on an 8.2% drop in net sales to $325 million, U.S. Gypsum's parent USG Corp. announced today. It also said the operating loss at USG's building products distribution segment, L&W Supply Corp., improved to $24 million from $73 million in 2009's third quarter despite a 15% drop in net sales to $281 million, largely because 2009's numbers included $49 million in charges.

U.S. Gypsum attributed the drop in net sales to lower wallboard shipments and lower sales of its Sheetrock brand joint treatment. The company's shipments of gypsum wallboard dropped 12% in the quarter from the year-earlier period to 1.03 billion square feet. Price changes was a relatively small factor, as U.S. Gypsum said its average realized selling price for Sheetrock was $114.45 per thousand square feet, or 0.8% less than the $115.33 price it realized in July through September 2009.

USG said the $11 million in restructuring and asset impairment charges it took across its North American operations in the third quarter helped deepen its operating loss.

At L&W, lower sales volumes in all maor product categories pulled down net sales, USG said. Gypsum wallboard sales fell 19%, while sales of other products were down 12% from 2009's third quarter. As for the operating loss improvement, USG noted it took $41 million in goodwill and other intangible asset impairment charges and $8 million in restructuring charges but didn't take such charges this year.

L&W reopened two distribution centers and opened one new center during the quarter, USG said. This means L&W Supply was operating 163 distribution centers as of Sept. 30.

Company-wide, USG said its net loss deepened slightly to $100 million from 2009's $94 million even though its operating loss shrank to $58 million from $92 million. Sales totaled $758 million, down from $822 million in the year-earlier period. "Our third quarter results reflect continued weak market conditions and extraordinarily low shipping volumes," William C. Foote, USG's chairman and CEO, said in a statement "Nonetheless, operating margins for our domestic wallboard business were stable, our ceilings business had another strong quarter and the performance of our distribution business continued to improve despite ongoing weakness in commercial construction."

Foote said USG expects contined weak demand and sales volumes.