ArcelorMittal’s Q4 earnings up 23% on improved economic situation

ArcelorMittal posted a 23% rise in underlying earnings for the fourth quarter of 2013 and predicted a "moderate" rise in steel margins this year.

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Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) in the three months to December 31 came in at $1.91 billion, up from $1.56 billion a year earlier, the world’s biggest steelmaker said.

“The improvement in the overall economic situation led us to restart some selected steel growth projects,” chairman and ceo Lakshmi Mittal said.

The company said it expected steel shipments this year to rise by about 3%, and forecast a “moderate” improvement in market conditions this year.

Mittal said the company is cautiously optimistic about the outlook for 2014 and expect Ebitda for the full year to improve to approximately $8 billion.

That outlook is on the basis that steel shipments will increase by about 3% in 2014 as compared with 2013, marketable iron ore shipments increase by about 15% – with average prices at $120 per tonne – and a moderate improvement in steel margins, the company said.

The steelmaker ended 2013 with net debt at $16.1 billion, down from $21.8 billion a year earlier and the lowest level since 2006.

But despite the improvement in underlying performance, it still made a net loss of $2.55 billion for 2013, due mostly to write-downs and impairment charges incurred during the year.

Mittal noted: “We have expanded our ability to serve the growing North American Free Trade Agreement automotive and energy steel markets through our agreement to acquire ThyssenKrupp’s rolling mill in Calvert, Alabama.”

ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp announced in November their intention to buy ThyssenKrupp Steel USA for $1.55 billion, to expand their sales to a resurgent US auto industry. The acquisition has already been approved by US anti-trust authorities.