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ArcelorMittal shares fall after big loss, profit warning

business Updated: Aug 01, 2013 14:27 IST

Steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal reported a big loss for the second quarter on Thursday and downgraded its targets for the year, but said it had reached the low point of the downturn for its business.

The overall figures gave a grim picture of results for the first half, even though the group said it was making progress on dealing with weak demand and over-capacity in Europe.

The group, the biggest maker of steel in the world, said that in the quarter it made a loss of $780 million (589.3 million euros) in contrast to a net profit of $1.0 billion in the same period of last year.

This loss was twice that of the $345 million deficit reported in the first quarter of this year.

In view of this weak overall first-half loss of about $1.12 billion, the group lowered its target for the year for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda).

It now put this target at more than $6.5 billion, instead of at least $7.1 billion.

However it assured that it still expected underlying profitability to improve this year.

Despite this, the price of shares in the group fell by 3.45% to 9.56 euros in early trading.

Chief executive Lakshmi Mittal said in a statement that the group had made progress on restructuring, notably in Europe, despite tough conditions in the first half of the year.

Strong cash flow had enabled the group to reduce net debt "to below our mid-year target" and "the expansion of ArcelorMittal Mines Canada is largely complete and will ramp up during the second half".

On the downgrading of the full-year Ebitda target, he said: "Although we have revised our full year guidance, the second half should deliver a clear underlying improvement relative to the second half of 2012, which we believe marked the lowest point in the cycle."

However the group said that an increase in working capital and payment of the dividend would increase debt in the second half to about $17 billion.

Nevertheless the group was holding to its medium-term target of reducing this to $15 billion.

The group expected investment to total about $3.7 billion this year.

In the second quarter the Ebitda figure, roughly equivalent to operating profit, amounted to $1.7 billion, marking a 33.0% fall on a 12-month basis in line with market expectations as polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

For the whole of the first six months, the fall was 30.0% to $3.26 billion.

In the second quarter, sales fell by 10.1% to $20.2 billion, and in the first six months by 11.6%.

The group has argued that in Europe there is too much steelmaking capacity.

It said that on its European operations it had reduced its operating loss in the first six months by 49.0% to 194 million euros from 340 million euros in the same period of last year.

The managing director for European operations Robrecht Himpe said that the results in the segment for flat carbon steel were improving sharply despite a continuing fall of demand for steel in Europe.

The group closed its blast furnaces at Florange in eastern France, in a highly controversial move in April and has announced that it will restructure operations at Liege in Belgium.