Brussels: ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, returned to profit in the third quarter and forecast a steady improvement in the final three months of the year.
The company said on Wednesday that it turned a net profit of $903 million after three consecutive loss-making quarters in which it suffered a near-collapse of the key steel markets of construction, machinery and car production.
Chief executive Lakshmi Mittal said the company had seen the first signs of recovery in July-September, with production set to rise to about 70% of capacity in the fourth quarter.
“We should continue to see further gradual improvement through 2010, although the operating environment remains challenging,” he said in a statement.
The company’s much-watched core profit (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation or EBITDA) totalled $1.59 billion in the third quarter, down 81% year-on-year but up 30% from the second quarter.
The company had previously given a forecast range of $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion. The average figure in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts was $1.67 billion.
For the fourth quarter, ArcelorMittal said it expected EBITDA of $2.0 billion to $2.4 billion.
By then output will have risen, price hikes should have taken effect and lower raw materials prices should have a stronger impact.
ArcelorMittal, with output some three times greater than nearest rival Nippon Steel and nearly 8% of the global market, has said it does not expect markets to normalise in Europe and the United States in 2010.
However, Chinese domestic demand is seen growing by more than 15%.
The World Steel Association forecast this month that global steel consumption would rebound by 9.2% in 2010 after a drop this year of 8.6%, a narrower decline than expected due to Chinese growth.
Nippon Steel is due to report first-half results on Thursday. South Korea’s Posco, the global number four, this month signalled a brighter outlook for the sector on improved global demand.