ArcelorMittal rides surging steel prices to post earnings 20 per cent up

Jasper Jolly
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Galvanized steel in an ArcelorMittal plant in France (Source: Getty)

ArcelorMittal rode the surging steel and iron ore prices in 2016, to record a 20 per cent rise in profits in full year results.

The company's shares rose by more than four per cent in morning trading in Amsterdam.

The figures

Earnings for 2016 grew to $6.3bn, a fifth more than the $5.2bn recorded in the previous year, after a 51 per cent year-on-year rise in fourth quarter earnings to $1.7bn.

Net income rose to $1.8bn compared to a loss of $7.9bn in 2015.

Despite the increased earnings, the company shipped 10.4 per cent less iron ore over the year.

The company used the higher steel prices to lower its debt burden by $4.6bn, to reach $11.1bn at the end of the year. Debt is now 1.8 times earnings, compared to three times greater in the previous year.

Why it’s interesting

Formerly Britain’s richest man (despite his company being listed in seemingly every stock exchange bar London), owner Lakshmi Mittal has seen his own personal fortune fall dramatically over recent years with the fall in commodity prices.

The poor unfortunate was estimated in April to be worth only £7.12bn, around the time ArcelorMittal’s share price bottomed. Since then iron ore spot prices have almost doubled, and the company’s shares have almost tripled in price. The company won’t now provide earnings guidance after being stung before.

Steel companies are also putting more emphasis on trade practices, which hit the headlines in the UK when Port Talbot’s massive steel works were threatened by closure.

A glut of cut-price Chinese steel was partly to blame, and steel magnates have pushed for harsher anti-dumping provisions. Under US President Donald Trump they may just get them.

What ArcelorMittal said

Mittal, who is also chairman and chief executive, said: “2016 was a year of progress for ArcelorMittal, characterised by improving market conditions, a strong contribution from our Action 2020 programme and steps from governments to address unfair trade.

"As a result, earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation were comfortably in excess of initial expectations and, furthermore, we have delivered on our commitment to prioritise debt reduction, significantly strengthening our balance sheet and ending the year with the lowest level of net debt since the creation of the company.

He added: “We enter 2017 with good momentum in the business and the market. Our increased confidence is reflected in the board’s decision to increase capital expenditure for 2017.”

In short

Steel makers have always ridden global commodities prices. Analysts will be more interested to see its efforts to pay down its debt, which will make things easier when the next dip in steel prices comes.

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