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File photo of Onex chief Gerald Schwartz.MARK BLINCH/Reuters

Onex Corp. recorded a $77-million net loss in the fourth quarter, an improvement from a year earlier as the conglomerate's revenue increased slightly and its cash flow from operations rose dramatically.

The company, which buys, sells and manages a wide range of businesses in several industries, reported $6.9-billion of revenue for the three-month period, and $784-million of cash flow.

Revenue was up 2 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2011, when Onex recorded a $113-million loss, while cash flow from operations was up $77-million or nearly 11 per cent from $707-million.

The nature of Onex's business makes year-to-year comparisons difficult.

Last year's net profit, for example, is nearly 98 per cent below the $1.6-billion reported for 2011 following the sale of two businesses that added $1.7-billion to the bottom line.

However, excluding discontinued operations, the 2012 full-year profit was a $127-million improvement from the $88-million loss from continuing operations recorded in 2011.

Cash flow from operations, another measure of how the underlying businesses fared, was $2-billion in 2012 as a whole, up $800-million or 66 per cent from 2011 while annual revenue was up 11 per cent to $27.4-billion from $24.6-billion.