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ORLANDO-Hughes Supply Inc., one of North America’s largest construction industry wholesalers and distributors, is reporting third-quarter net income of $17.7 million or 76 cents per share on sales of $790 million compared with $18.8 million or 80 cents per share on revenue of $863 million a year ago.

For the nine months ended Oct. 31, net income was $38.8 million or $1.66 per share on sales of $2.37 billion versus $55.6 million or $2.38 per share on revenue of $2.57 million in third quarter 2000.

Long-term debt is down to $415.2 million compared with $577 million a year ago.

“We are focused on managing our assets more effectively and reducing debt levels,” David H. Hughes, company chairman/CEO, says in a prepared statement. At the end of the third quarter, the long-term debt-to-capital ratio was 41% compared to 50% a year ago.

“As a result of the lower debt level, interest expense ($8.7 million) for the quarter decreased by $2.6 million,” Hughes says.

The company introduced a new customer incentive program during the quarter. “We believe that our efforts will enable us to differentiate ourselves form the competition and to capture a greater share of the markets we serve,” Hughes says.

The chairman blamed an industry-wide construction slowdown for his company’s earnings slippage.

Hughes Supply wholesales and distributes 240,000 separate commercial/industrial building materials from 450 locations in 35 states and Mexico.

The company’s common was trading at noon today on the New York Stock Exchange at $25.15 on volume of 2,100, down 10 cents from yesterday. The 52-week high-low is $27.90 and $13.22 per share.

There are 23.7 million shares outstanding. The company’s market capitalization is $595 million. The stock’s price/earnings ratio is 19.50.

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