ArcelorMittal SA to buy back shares after Q1 loss

JOHANNESBURG - ArcelorMittal SA, the South African unit of the world’s No. 1 steel maker, said on Wednesday it would buy back shares to return cash to shareholders, boosting its stock by 6 percent.

By (Reuters)

Published: Wed 29 Apr 2009, 3:02 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:42 AM

The company said it would issue 10 percent of its shares at a price of 87.64 rand per share.

“We are in the unique position that we have a substantial amount of excess cash ... even in the worst-case scenario we are covered,” said Finance Executive Director Kobus Verster.

Shares in the unit rose 6 percent to 79.77 rand by 0800 GMT, compared with a 0.4 percent stronger JSE blue-chip index.

“(The share buy back) is definitely what’s got the market excited ... there’s no (other) positive news in the sector,” said Roy Lamb, a trader at Investec Securities.

The company earlier reported a fall into a first-quarter headline loss and said the next three months would be tough, in spite of a gradual pick-up in demand on the continent. ArcelorMittal reported a first-quarter headline loss per share of 53 cents, down from a headline earnings per share of 449 cents the previous year, hit by a slump in demand and high input costs.

“The outlook for global steel production has not improved significantly and it now appears that the second quarter will be extremely challenging,” ArcelorMittal South Africa Chief Executive Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita said. Revenue for the quarter fell 24 percent to 6.17 billion rand ($714 million) from the previous quarter.

Steel prices have collapsed as the global financial crisis shakes global economies, slashing end-user demand for steel while tight credit markets delay construction projects.

The world’s steel industry is this year bracing for an almost 15 percent slump in demand compared with 2008 as the global economic downturn rips through the sector.

Steelmakers across the globe have been cutting production, delaying shipments and reviewing expansion and investment plans.

The South African unit said second-quarter earnings are expected to improve marginally on the back of lower raw material costs, especially for coking coal, as new contracts will be negotiated to better reflect market prices.

The company, which is running its business at 60 percent of capacity, said it expects demand to slowly pick up, boosted by a rise in infrastructure projects in Africa and by deliveries to power stations being built by South African utility Eskom.

ArcelorMittal said it had yet to make a final decision for prices for its products for the next month, but said it expected prices to be weaker going forward.

The company had cut prices of all its steel products by between 5 and 8 percent for April, mirroring global trends. Since October last year prices have come down by 45 percent.

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