Pasadena-based Ameron International Corp., the region's largest manufacturer of concrete and steel water pipes, reported weak second-quarter earnings, as expected. Company officials blamed El Nino rains and a six-week strike at a Fontana manufacturing plant for the sluggish three-month period ended May 31. Though sales of $137 million for the quarter were 3.8% higher than the year-ago period, earnings were $4.5 million, or $1.09 a diluted share, down from $5.3 million, or $1.30 a share. Bad weather delayed shipments to construction projects, and the strike shut down operations at the company's largest steel-pipe facility. Rain also hampered earnings in the company's protective coatings division, and its recent acquisition of a British competitor affected its bottom line with one-time integration costs. Ameron, however, predicts strong third and fourth quarters, partly through filling a $165-million backlog of orders, and expects to meet year-end earnings expectations. "In fiscal 1997, Ameron achieved record earnings of $4.73 per share in a back-load year not unlike the one we are currently experiencing," said Ameron President, CEO and Chairman James Marlen. "Despite the delayed business in the first half of fiscal 1998, we remain confident that the company will have another good year." Ameron stock added 6 cents to close at $56.81 on the New York Stock Exchange.