By Alistair MacDonald

 

ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel maker, posted a loss of $1.1 billion in the first quarter, and said demand for the metal fell by a third in North America and Europe as the coronavirus pandemic crushed car production, among other factors.

Despite Thursday's dire numbers, analysts said it could have been worse, with the company helped by a strong start to the year before the coronavirus lockdowns began, and a relatively healthy balance sheet. During the pandemic the steel maker has been manufacturing protective face masks and ventilators. Its shares were up by 4.5% in early morning trade in London.

ArcelorMittal "at the very least stands out as the steel company best placed to weather this crisis and emerge stronger on the other side, which isn't how it's traded," Citigroup said in a research note.

The European Union is reviewing the quotas it uses to keep out cheaper foreign steel from places like Turkey and Asia, said Aditya Mittal, the company's president and CFO. In January last year, the EU imposed country quotas on its major suppliers, levying a 25% duty on imports that exceed the limits. But the quotas are based on average steel imported during a period when steel demand was considerably more robust than today.

 

Write to Alistair MacDonald at alistair.macdonald@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 07, 2020 06:17 ET (10:17 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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