Fourth-quarter sales in the Universal Forest Products Inc. (UFPI) division devoted to site-built construction slumped 42% to $54.2 million and dropped 46% for all 2009 to $244.1 million, the company announced today.

Company-wide, UFPI posted a net loss of $663,000 in the fourth quarter on sales of $338.6 million. That's a slight improvement from its $793,000 net loss in the final three months of 2008, when it recorded net sales of $423.7 million. For the year, net earnings jumped to $24.3 million on net sales of $1.7 billion from 2008's net earnings of $4.3 million on $2.2 billion in sales.

The 12% drop in UFPI's average composite lumber price contributed to the company-wide 25% drop in annual net sales, UFPI said. Inside the site-built construction group, UFPI cited a 38.8% drop in housing starts last year from the year before. "Universal continues to focus on making sure it remains a preferred supplier to builders, on balancing its business within the site-built market, and on adding new opportunities for sustainable business moving forward as the housing sector recovers slowly in the coming years," the company said. The site-built construction segment accounted for 16% of UFPI's fourth-quarter sales, down from 22% a year earlier, and for 14% of its company-wide sales in 2009, down from 20% in 2008.

UFPI's do-it-yourself/retail segment suffered a 14.8% slide in fourth-quarter sales to $130.7 million and was down 12.4% for the year to $805 million. The industrial packaging/components group fell the least, dropping 8.5% in October-December 2008 to $111.6 million and 20% for all 2008 to $479.3 million. And the manufactured housing segment's sales dropped 15.2 in the quarter to $48.9 million and 39.4% in the year to $183.9 million.

"We continue to eliminate waste and to focus on critical basics like inventory and receivables--which have proven to be the right strategies for fragile times," CEO Michael B. Glenn said. "We will maintain a keen eye on those strategies in 2010, and will add an intense focus on sales growth during the year. Although we expect 2010 to be challenging, we've laid the groundwork to achieve new and sustainable growth in the future, and we're already seeing results."