ArcelorMittal sees drop in steel shipments and profitsArcelorMittal sees drop in steel shipments and profits
FILE PHOTO: Metal coils are seen at an ArcelorMittal steel plant in Ghent

By Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, forecast steel shipments in the second quarter would fall by between a quarter and a third, leading to sharply lower profits as coronavirus lockdowns hit demand.

Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal said on Thursday the company’s core markets had showed signs of improvement at the end of 2019, but activity and market conditions had since worsened.

“The improved operating performance in the first quarter has been considerably overshadowed by the COVID-19 crisis,” he said in a statement.

The Luxembourg-based company forecast core profit (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) would drop in the second quarter to $400-$600 million, with steel shipments within a range of 13.5-14.5 million tonnes,

First-quarter core profit was $967 million, compared with the average forecast in a company poll of $867 million. Steel shipments totalled 19.5 million tonnes, down 10.7% from a year earlier.

The company said it had suspended dividend payments until further notice. It had proposed a dividend for 2019 of $0.30 per share.

Net debt rose to $9.5 billion in the first quarter, from $9.3 billion at the end of 2019.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Potter)