New Delhi: The Steel Authority of India (SAIL) expects its profitability to rise in the current fiscal on growing steel consumption, which the country’s largest steel producer expects to grow by 8-9%.

India, the world’s fourth-largest steel producer, saw its consumption of total finished steel grow by 3.1% to 76.36 million tonnes (MT) in the last fiscal from 74.09 MT in 2013-14.

“As the government is increasingly focusing on ramping up infrastructure and chalking out programmes to develop roads, ports and affordable housing, we expect steel consumption to grow by 8-9% in 2015-16," Sail chairman and managing director C.S Verma told PTI.

According to data from the Joint Plant Committee (JPC), a unit of the steel ministry: “India’s consumption of total finished steel saw a growth of 3.1% in 2014-15 (76.355 MT) over same period of last year."

For the first month of the current fiscal, consumption of total finished steel grew by 7.1% to 5.503 MT as compared to April 2014, but registered a decline of 23.2% over March 2015 (7.153 MT).

Exuding confidence on Sail’s journey in 2015-16, Verma said: “There are several projects that are in the pipeline like smart cities, affordable housing as well as other supporting infrastructure requirements, which will help us to increase both our top and bottom line."

The state-owned steel maker had reported 26% fall in net profit to Rs334 crore for the fourth quarter of 2014-15 from Rs453 crore in the year-ago period. Its total income declined 13% to Rs11,684 crore in the January-March quarter of the last fiscal from Rs13,684 crore in the same quarter of 2013-14.

Defending the firm’s performance, Verma said Sail’s profit and sales margins are better when compared to the results for the last quarter.

“At a time when market conditions have been challenging, not just in India but globally, we have maintained our output and braved headwinds like cheap imports, slack demand, among others to give a sector leading performance," he added. Analysts also expect India’s steel consumption to rise. According to industry body World Steel Association, steel consumption in India is expected to grow by 6.2% to 80 MT in 2015 from 75.3 MT in 2014.

In its short range forecast, the association pegs consumption of the metal to grow by 7.3% to 85.8 MT in 2016 as compared to 2015.

In April, its director general Edwin Basson said that world crude steel output is expected to jump by 400 MT by 2030 from 1.6 billion tonnes in 2014, largely supported by growth in India.

“Future demand will be fuelled by population growth in the emerging world, processes of urbanisation and industrialisation," Basson, who was in the country to attend the India Steel 2015 expo, had said.

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