- EU steel market: first positive effects emanating from EU anti-dumping initiatives
- Decisive profit contribution by internal program of measures
- Upward revision of earnings forecast in June affirmed
Salzgitter, 12-Aug-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — Due above all to a stronger second quarter, the Salzgitter Group delivered a pre-tax profit in the first half of 2016 that was boosted significantly by the contribution from the continued successful implementation of internal restructuring measures. Although the immense price pressure exerted since the fall of 2015 by cheap imports – first and foremost from China, but also from Russia and the Ukraine – is reflected in the results of the strip steel and plate segments, the profit contributions of the other business units and the Aurubis investment fully offset this effect. The first EU anti-dumping measures have caused a surprisingly sharp decline in Chinese imports since the spring of 2016, accompanied by a concurrent increase in the price level of many steel products. In response to the market returning to a more stable level, Salzgitter AG lifted its earnings forecast for the financial year 2016 back on June 28, 2016.
Due in particular to the extremely tense selling price situation still prevailing in the spring for rolled steel products in the European market, the Salzgitter Group’s external sales declined to € 3,967.5 million in the first half of 2016 (H1 2015: € 4,529.6 million). Earnings before taxes of € 16.1 million (H1 2015: € 80.2 million) comprise a total of € 6.6 million in expenses for measures aimed at structural improvements (H1 2015: €–33.1 million), as well as € 26.1 million contribution from the Aurubis investment (H1 2015: € 16.4 million). The after-tax result stood at € 9.3 million (H1 2015: € 41.3 million), which brings earnings per share to € 0.13 (H1 2015: € 0.72) and return on capital employed (ROCE) to 2.1 % (H1 2015: 5.4 %).
Even following another reduction in the actuarial rate applicable to pension provisions to only 1.25 %, the company continues to enjoy a sound financial basis, with an equity ratio of 32 % and a net financial position of € 183 million that is virtually unchanged year on year.
Chief Executive Officer Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heinz Jörg Fuhrmann commented as follows: “Thanks to the rigorous implementation of our self-help measures and our excellent technical and financial basis, we can look to the future with confidence, which is also underpinned by our performance. We welcome the urgently necessary anti-dumping initiatives of the EU Commission, without which significant parts of the European steel industry would have been placed at risk in the medium term. However, as the scope and sustainability of the measures introduced are not foreseeable, and seeing as a general solution to the EU market’s problems has by no means yet been found, we will continue to focus on optimizing the processes and structures of our own company. We cannot and will not diverge from this path!”
Development of the business Units
The Strip Steel Business Unit reported stable shipments in the period under review compared with the first six months of 2015. External sales nevertheless declined to € 937.0 million (H1 2015: € 1,030.1 million) on the back of very low selling prices. The market recovery currently observed will only filter through to the respective financial figures in the second half of the year due to the longer-term contractual agreements of Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH. On the cost front, more favorable raw materials procurement prices had a counter effect but were nonetheless unable to offset the selling price erosion, which resulted in the business unit delivering a pre-tax loss of € 37.3 million (H1 2015: € +20.7 million).
Europe’s section and heavy plate markets presented a disparate picture during the period under review. While the development for sections remained comparatively stable, the plate business was burdened by high import volumes, accompanied by demand that was slow to pick up momentum. The segment’s external sales declined notably to € 366.6 million (H1 2015: € 500.2 million) due to the lower average selling prices for plate. Despite the negative results produced by the plate companies, the pre-tax result grew to €– 17.0 million compared with the first half of 2015 (€ – 19.5 million). Along with the non-recurrence of losses from the sheet piling business, Peiner Träger GmbH made a definitive contribution to this result. Expenses of € 1.5 million were incurred by the first measures aimed at structural improvements at Ilsenburger Grobblech GmbH.
The Energy Business Unit saw its shipment volumes drop owing in particular to the lower take-up of the line pipes of Salzgitter Mannesmann Line Pipe GmbH (MLP). As the selling prices of many product groups had entered into decline, external sales contracted to € 502.5 million (H1 2015: € 574.9 million). At € 9.4 million, the segment nevertheless delivered a significant improvement in earnings before taxes (H1 2015: € 3.3 million). A major contribution to this result was made by the EUROPIPE Group that is consolidated at equity and which enjoyed a huge improvement in capacity utilization compared with the prior year period. A countertrend emanated from expenses of € 5.1 million incurred by measures aimed at structural improvements, mainly at MLP. Since August 1, 2016, the Energy Business Unit has been operating under the new name of the Mannesmann Business Unit. This measure serves to underscore the quality aspiration associated with the internationally renowned Mannesmann brand.
In the period under review, the Trading Business Unit reported shipments that remained virtually unchanged from the year-earlier level. Due to the significant downturn in selling prices, expressed as a half-yearly average, external sales (€ 1,425.5 million) fell short of the year-earlier figure (H1 2015: € 1,690.3 million). While the earning situation of the stockholding steel trade remained moderate during the first quarter, the following months saw margins rise, accompanied by similarly positive results from the international business, which resulted in a presentable pre-tax profit of € 16.5 million (H1 2015: € 17.3 million).
The Technology Business Unit’s order intake developed well in the first six months of 2016. At € 641.7 million, external sales slightly exceeded the prior-year level (H1 2015: € 636.3 million). The business unit generated earnings before taxes of € 12.6 million that, with the lower results delivered by KHS and the KDE Group, almost matched the year-earlier figure (H1 2015: € 14.6 million).
The external sales of Industrial Participations / Consolidation (€ 94.1 million) declined slightly in a year-on-year comparison (H1 2015: € 97.7 million). The pre-tax profit of € 31.8 million, which included € 26.1 million contribution from the Aurubis investment (H1 2015: € 16.4 million), did not repeat the prior-year figure (H1 2015: € 43.7 million). The Group companies not directly assigned to a business unit made an overall contribution to profit that fell short of the figure achieved in the first six months of 2015. Valuation effects from foreign exchange transactions delivered a notably lower, but nonetheless positive contribution compared with the previous year figure.
Guidance on the development of the macroeconomic situation is already fundamentally subject to a great deal of uncertainty, particularly in the current political and financial environment. The forward-looking statements below on the individual business units assume the absence of renewed recessionary developments. Instead they are based more on the assumption of a moderate economic recovery in our persistently contested main markets.
Over the remainder of the year, the Strip Steel Business Unit anticipates an uptrend that will be attributable first and foremost to the decline in dumped Chinese imports and the associated increase in the selling prices of strip steel products. This uptrend will not, however, be able to compensate for the losses accumulated from the temporary destruction of market equilibrium. Against this backdrop, a downturn in sales and a marginal decline in the pre-tax result compared with the previous year has been assumed.
In the Plate / Section Steel Business Unit the ruinous price competition triggered by the flood of imports that the plate companies had to contend with appears to have been halted for the time being. The Mülheim mill is benefiting from comparatively good capacity utilization due to the awarding of the Nord Stream 2 project. The section steel business remains exposed to a difficult market environment; short-term fluctuations in demand and scrap steel prices make forecasting more difficult. Thanks to the non-recurrence of losses from the operations of HSP Hoesch Spundwand und Profil GmbH that were wound down at year-end 2015, we anticipate a significant reduction in the business unit’s pre-tax loss. Sales are anticipated at a notably lower level due above all to selling prices.
The companies of the Mannesmann Business Unit, renamed as of August 1, 2016 (formerly: Energy Business Unit), report a very heterogeneous performance: While capacity utilization in the large-diameter pipe mills is good, order bookings in the segment of medium-diameter line pipes are unsatisfactory as a result of energy prices. The precision tube companies expect stable demand from automotive manufacturers, as opposed to the markets of the energy and industry product segments that are likely to display a weaker trend. The stainless steel tubes business anticipates a gradual market recovery following initially reticent order intake during the first months of 2016. The sales and pre-tax result of the Mannesmann Business Unit are expected to settle around the 2015 level.
The Trading Business Unit expects the price level and demand conditions to stabilize as the financial year 2016 progresses. All in all, the segment anticipates lower sales compared with 2015, which is mainly due to the decline in international trading’s shipment tonnage and the downturn in average selling prices. The temporary widening of the margins in the stockholding steel trade is nevertheless likely to lead to a higher pre-tax profit.
The Technology Business Unit expects a stable sales and profit trend supported by a high order backlog. In view of the continued fierce competition in the global project business, the KHS Group intends to generate growth through profitable product segments, as well as through the additional expansion of its service business. The prospects of the smaller specialist mechanical engineering companies are also positive.
Against this backdrop, the Salzgitter Group affirms its forecast of June 28, 2016 and assumes the following, as before:
- a decline in sales to between € 8.0 and 8.5 billion (previous year: EUR 8.6 billion),
- an increase in pre-tax profit compared to 2015 (€ 13 million) to between € 30 and 60 million, which already includes the balance of around € 10 million in burdens on earnings for individual measures aimed at structural improvements within the Group and income from the sale of assets,
- a return on capital employed that is marginally higher year on year (previous year: 2.1 %).
As in recent years, please note that opportunities and risks from currently unforeseeable trends in selling prices, input material prices and capacity level developments, as well as changes in the currency parity, may considerably affect performance in the course of the financial year 2016. The resulting fluctuation in the consolidated pre-tax result may, as current events show, be within a considerable range, either to the positive or to the negative. The dimensions of this range become clear if one considers that, with around 12 million tons of steel products sold by the Strip Steel, Plate / Section Steel, Energy and Trading business units, an average €10 change in the margin per ton is sufficient to cause a variation in the annual result of more than € 120 million. Moreover, the accuracy of the company’s planning is restricted by the volatile cost of raw materials and shorter contractual durations, on the procurement as well as on the sales side.
Disclaimer: Some of the statements made in this report possess the character of forecasts or may be interpreted as such. These are made to the best of the Company’s knowledge and judgment, and by their nature are subject to the proviso that no unforeseeable deterioration occurs in the economy or in the specific market situation pertaining to the division companies, but rather that the underlying bases of plans and outlooks prove to be accurate as expected with regards to their scope and timing. Notwithstanding prevailing statutory provisions and capital market law in particular, the Company accepts no obligation to continuously update any forward-looking statements that are made solely in connection with circumstances prevailing on the day of their publication.