Baton Rouge specialty chemical maker Albemarle Corp. reported fourth-quarter earnings of $37.7 million, or 42 cents per share, Tuesday, compared with fourth-quarter 2011 earnings of $45.5 million, or 51 cents per share.

That figure includes special items, such as adjustments to the company’s nonoperating pension and a restructuring. Excluding the special items, Albemarle would have beat its 2011 performance with earnings of $105.2 million, or $1.17 per share, compared with $101.9 million, or $1.13 per share, the company reported.

That would have been better than the 99 cents per-share earning that analysts were predicting, according to estimates from Thomson Reuters.

Analysts’ estimates usually exclude special items.

Albemarle reported net sales of $687.6 million for the fourth quarter, compared with $707.4 million in fourth-quarter 2011.

For the year, Albemarle had net sales of $2.7 billion, compared with $2.9 billion in 2011. Earnings were $311.5 million, or $3.47 per share, compared with $392.1 million, or $4.28 per share in 2011. Excluding special items, earnings would have been $436.2 million, or $4.85 per share, compared with $446.3 million, or $4.88 per share.

In a statement, Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam said he was pleased with the company’s earnings power in 2012 despite the weak worldwide economy, higher raw material prices, lower demand and lower operating rates.

“At the same time, we were able to exit the phosphorus business, freeze our pension obligations and further strengthen our balance sheet while also investing sufficient capital to permit future growth across our business portfolio,” Kissam said in the statement.

Albemarle’s catalysts segment saw a 2 percent increase in net sales during the quarter, up to $294.1 million, because of favorable volumes. But fine chemistry net sales dropped 7 percent to $193.4 million, and polymer solutions sales dropped 4 percent to $200.1 million. The decreases were caused by= the company’s decision to get out of the phosphorus flame retardants business, unfavorable pricing and foreign currency impacts.

Albemarle’s stock closed Tuesday at $64.33, down 11 cents or 0.17 percent.