Bethlehem Steel, trapped between soaring foreign imports and falling prices, will try to sell 5 million shares of stock -- worth about $92 million -- to help the company meet its financial needs.
Bethlehem Chairman Donald H. Trautlein, whose firm lost $113 million in 1984 and $164 million in 1983, said he expected first-quarter losses this year to run between $60 million and $80 million, and in a statement Monday offered several reasons for the steady financial hemorrhage.
"There is a substantial overhang of inventories because of the high level of imports, and steel prices are very depressed," he said, adding that the Reagan administration's effort to restrict steel imports "has not been fully implemented."
Steel companies are banking on import quotas, now under discussion by the Reagan administration and foreign competitors, to eventually help alleviate overseas competition.
Wall Street reaction yesterday to Bethlehem's decision to offer the 5 million shares, which the company said was to finance capital expenditures and for other purposes, was generally negative.
The stock closed at $18.50 -- down 25 cents -- on a volume of 228,900 shares.
Brokerage house analysts who follow Bethlehem agreed that its financial situation was serious, although they had mixed views of the firm's longer-term outlook.
Charles Bradford, steel analyst for Merrill Lynch, said that he had downgraded the stock's rating from "speculative" to "high risk" and lowered his estimate of the company's 1985 earnings from $2 to $1 a share.
Peter F. Marcus of Paine Webber, which has rated the stock "unattractive," said, "The outlook is very rough." But he added that he thought the infusion of capital from the offering would help.
Robert G. Maloney of Wood Gundy said that the stock offering meant that the company is "in financial difficulty and needs to raise equity."
The new stock offering will be underwritten by Salomon Bros. Bethlehem has about 46.4 million shares of common stock outstanding. It also has 2.5 million shares of $5 cumulative convertible preferred stock and 4 million shares of $2.50 cumulative preferred stock outstanding.