Thursday, May 15, 2008

ArcelorMittal predicts buoyant year for steel

ArcelorMittal has come out with an upbeat projection for the steel industry for the rest of the year, after reporting a 5.4 per cent rise in net income in the first quarter.

Lakshmi Mittal, chief executive of ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker, said: "I am confident the steel industry will this year largely avoid the economic downturn that is affecting other areas of the global economy. Overall, the steel industry will have a good year in 2008."

Mr Mittal, who yesterday took on the additional role of ArcelorMittal chairman after the retirement of Joseph Kinsch, is also the biggest shareholder with a stake of 45 per cent.

His comments come in spite of concerns by some large industrial companies, led by Siemens, the German electrical engineering group, that the credit problems affecting sectors such as banking and housing in some regions are beginning to have an impact on areas such as manufacturing.

Mr Mittal, explaining his remarks that steel looks like avoiding the worst of problems that are showing an impact in other areas, said that weak demand in some parts of the steel industry was being more than balanced by an upturn in requirements elsewhere.

"In terms of geographical areas, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Russia, Latin America and China are still doing well," Mr Mittal said.

"Even in the US, there is relatively strong demand for steel. While the automotive market is slow, we are seeing good demand in other sectors, such as engineering products and home appliances."

The steel industry was being affected by some signs of economic weakness, in specific sectors, he said. "In western Europe, the housing sector is slowing, and demand is soft in southern Europe in particular."

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