By Alex MacDonald
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Steel titan ArcelorMittal (MT) Thursday reported lower first-quarter earnings due in part to lower prices in some of its key markets, but it reaffirmed its earnings guidance for the first half of the year, citing improved demand sentiment in a number of key markets.
Steelmakers around the world are facing a profit-margin squeeze after raw material costs remained high in the first quarter relative to lower steel prices. ArcelorMittal has temporarily idled some of its production capacity in response to weak demand and is looking at divesting some of its non-core assets in order to reduce its debt and shore up its balance sheet.
The world's largest steelmaker, which accounts for some 6% of global steel production, said its sales rose 2.3% on the year in the first quarter to $22.7 billion as higher steel shipments helped offset lower average steel selling prices.
But its keenly-watched earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, dropped 24% on the year to $1.97 billion as costs rose. The figure beat analysts' expectations for Ebitda of $1.70 billion, according to a Dow Jones Newswires poll of eight analysts. First-quarter Ebitda was also up 15% compared with the fourth quarter.
"During the first quarter we saw improved sentiment in a number of key markets," said Chairman and Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal. North American steel demand is improving, but "Europe remains the biggest challenge," he said.
The company said it expects its Ebitda for the first half of the year to be higher than the second half of last year.
Net profit attributable to shareholders dropped to $11 million from $1.07 billion a year earlier.
ArcelorMittal's shares closed Wednesday up 0.5%, or EUR0.05, at EUR12.41 a share, resulting in a market capitalization of EUR19.36 billion. ArcelorMittal's shares are down about 12% since the beginning of the year.
-By Alex MacDonald, Dow Jones Newswires; 44 20 7842 9328; firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 10, 2012 02:07 ET (06:07 GMT)
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