Tokyo: Nippon Steel Corp, the world’s No.2 steelmaker, booked a third consecutive quarterly loss, hit in part by blast furnace trouble, but raised its full-year outlook to above market expectations.
China’s near-$600 billion stimulus package has revived the region’s steel industry, but subsequent production boosts by Chinese mills and their rising inventories are worrying global steelmakers. They say China could ramp up its exports and damage the balance in the market.
Nippon Steel’s earnings recovery has been slower than its domestic rival JFE Holdings Inc as trouble at a mill in August curbed output at a time when demand from exports was strong. In addition, a shut-down until August of one of its most competitive mills raised Nippon Steel’s cost base.
Nippon Steel - which trails ArcelorMittal and competes with the world’s No.3 Baoshan Iron and Steel Co and No.4 Posco in Asia - said on Thursday its recurring loss, which is before tax and and special items, came to 30.3 billion yen ($334 million) in July-September.
The loss was smaller than the previous quarter’s 56.7 billion yen loss and its own forecast of 53.3 billion yen loss. The company booked a profit of 118.15 billion yen a year ago.
Nippon Steel raised its forecast for the year to March 2010 to 20 billion yen from a prior estimate for nil profit. The new forecast is above a market consensus estimate of a profit of 13.5 billion yen in a poll of 17 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Japanese steelmakers’ profits will be well below those of Asian peers this year as lower costs of raw material inputs such as iron ore and coking coal triggered big inventory writedowns mostly in April-June. The Japanese have tougher asset impairment accounting rules than their rivals.
Shares in Nippon Steel were up 0.3% after the results, outperforming a 1.9% fall in the benchmark Nikkei average.