9 Mar 2010 13:13

SUMMARY: Severstal posts over $1 bln losses last year, upbeat about 2010

MOSCOW. March 9 (Interfax) - Severstal said it was more confident about the prospects for 2010 after closing last year, a difficult one for the global steel industry, with net losses of $1.037 billion, including $162 million in Q4.

Results and outlook

Severstal said in an earnings report on March 9 that net losses to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) were $162 million, compared with profit of $71 million in Q3 2009. Net losses for FY 2009 were $1.037 billion, compared with net profit of $2.029 billion.

Analysts told Interfax in a consensus forecast they thought net losses would be $152 million in Q4 2009.

The Q4 losses included a $47 million pre-tax foreign exchange loss and $157 million deferred tax expense.

Severstal said in its earnings report that earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased by 68.9% to $630 million in Q4 from $373 million in Q3, driven primarily by strong performance at Severstal Russian Steel and Severstal Resources.

"Further price increases across all markets, improvements in demand for value-added products, and the benefits of restructuring and cost reduction initiatives resulted in improved EBITDA and strong cash flow," Severstal said.

Severstal had an improved EBITDA margin of 16.1% for Q4, compared with 10.7% in Q3, due to cost saving initiatives and higher utilization rates across the company.

Sales revenue was up 12.4% to $3.919 billion in Q4 from $3.487 billion in Q3.

Analysts said they thought Severstal would see $3.8 billion EBITDA and $570 million revenue in Q4 2009, so these results were better than forecast.

Severstal reported strong free cash flow of $519 million in Q4 2009 compared with $279 million in Q3 2009, which it said led to $449 million reduction in net debt to $4.278 billion as at December 31, 2009.

Total indebtedness also decreased during the year, to $7.227 billion as at December 31, 2009 from $8.266 billion at the end of 2008. Cash, cash equivalents and short-term bank deposits were $2.949 billion as at December 31, 2009, down from $3.472 billion a year previously.

Severstal said sales revenue plummeted to $13.054 billion in FY 2009 from $22.393 billion in FY 2008 as a result of "very difficult market conditions," particularly in the first half of 2009, which led to lower sales volumes and average prices.

FY 2009 EBITDA shrank to $844 million, from $5.358 billion in FY 2008.

Severstal said it focused on cash and capital expenditure discipline, making $1 billion of investments in 2009, in line with full year guidance.

Severstal financial highlights in 2009 ($ mln):

FY 2009 FY 2008
Sales revenue 13 054 22 393
Gross profit 1 698 5 893
EBITDA 844 5 358
Profit/(loss) from operations (145) 4 216
Profit/loss before tax (1 101) 2 579
Net profit (loss) (1 037) 2 029

Last year was "a difficult year for the global steel industry but the decisive actions we took during the year leave the Company well positioned for 2010," said Alexey Mordashov, Severstal's CEO. "Solid economic growth in emerging markets and a gradual recovery of demand in mature markets have improved the outlook for 2010. Furthermore, growing demand from China for raw materials has already led to higher spot prices for iron ore and coking coal in 2010, a trend we believe will be sustained during the year," Mordashov said.

"In this trading environment, our flexible cost base, vertically integrated model and solid financial position provide us with additional competitive advantage to benefit from improving steel markets and invest in growth and an enhanced product mix. We look forward to 2010 with confidence," he said.

Regional performance

Severstal has assets in Russia, North America, Europe and Ukraine.

Severstal noted continued strong performance from Russian operations: Russian Steel EBITDA margin was 28.4% in Q4 2009 with capacity utilization above 95%. It said there had been further significant improvement in Resources division EBITDA margin to 27.5% with production volumes back to pre-downturn levels.

Severstal's North American enterprises had negative EBITDA of $97 million, while the European operations were profitable.

Severstal's Mordashov said in a conference call that he expected the North American assets would show better financial results in 2010. He did not say whether they would show positive profit from operations, but he did say the segment's results would be more positive than last year.

"We can't expect much growth, but we are looking optimistically at the U.S. market. We plant to remain in the United States and believe in the market's long-term prospects," Mordashov said, adding that Severstal expected demand from American car makers to recover.

Dividends and capex

Severstal said its board was "not recommending payment of a dividend for Q4 2009" and would "keep the resumption of dividends under review."

Alexei Mordashov controls 82% of the shares in Severstal and the free float is around 18%.

Capital expenditure was $1 billion in 2009, in line with Severstal's target for the year. "In 2010, we will increase our capital expenditure program to $1.4 billion, reflecting our improved confidence in the market outlook. Approximately $685 million will be spent on key projects in the Russian Steel Division, $356 million in the Resources Division and $413 million in North America," the company said in the earnings report.

"These investments will support the company's organic growth and enhance our competitive position. They will be focused on enhancing our vertically integrated model and mini-mill capacity to target growth in the Russian infrastructure and construction markets and on improving our competitive position in higher value added markets in the United States," the company said.