During the first half of 2008 the stainless steel sector has been featured by the demand recovery and the inventories reductions, which has allowed to increase the base prices in all the markets.
The flat products apparent consumption in the European market has improved by 6% with regard to the first semester of 2007, which has led to increase base prices by 30% from the low levels reached at the end of year 2007.
The American market apparent consumption has shown a worse behaviour due to the fact that the stockists have kept low levels of inventories. The base prices have increased at a lower rate than in Europe but their behaviour is much more stable.
The weakness of the nickel in the last weeks and the seasonal factor, mainly in the European markets, have reduced the orders entry and weakened the prices. We expect a recovery of market fundamentals from September, reinforced by the low inventory levels available in the market.
In this context, Acerinox Group has kept a good production level, although slightly lower to the level achieved in the first semester of the previous year.
The half-yearly net sales, 3,159 million euros is 27% lower than the invoiced figure in 2007 like period, but they increase by 22% with regard to the figure of the second half of the previous year. Geographical distribution of Group sales in the 2008 first half shows the competitive advantage of Acerinox as global producer with commercial presence in every area. Europe remains as the main market meaning 44.5% of the Group sales. Spanish market means around 11% of total Group sales.
The EBITDA, 324.9 million euros, is equivalent to 10.3% margin over sales. This margin, although 41% lower than the exceptional one of the first semester of 2007, is higher than the margin of the whole of year 2007, which was 9.5%. A extraordinary expense of 6.7 million euros has been accounted in June due to the attendance bonus to the General Shareholders Meeting.
The quarterly results after taxes and minorities, 87.9 million euros, confirms the recovery which is taking place from the end of 2007 and they are only surpassed by the quarterly results achieved in the period July 2006 – June 2007, as a result of the nickel price “rally” during said period.
The contribution to the net results is once more led by North American Stainless with 73.1%, followed by Acerinox, S.A. with 14.2% and Columbus with 11.0%.
The better behaviour of the market during the first semester of 2008 is reflected in the reduction of the inventories amount in 109 million euros and in the increase of the number of customers.
The Group financial debt amounts to 1,042 million euros, equivalent to gearing of 47.4%.
The financial strength of the Group is proved by maintaining comfortable leverage levels, which allow us to undertake high investments as those we are carrying out during the year 2008, and also, the acquisition of 2% of the share capital for its redemption, which was recently approved by the General Shareholders Meeting.
Condensed balance Sheet of Acerinox Consolidated Group
· Campo de Gibraltar Factory
The investments program approved a year ago (16th Phase) for an amount of 49.9 million euros, is at an advance stage of implementation.
The recently approved investments plan (17th Phase) for the next two years has already been started. The development of these investments will require adjustments in some production lines, which will be carried out in the biennial halts planned for the second half of the year.
· Kentucky Factory
The construction works of No. 2 AOD converter for the melting shop are well under way, and its start-up is scheduled for the end of the third quarter.
In the cold rolling mill, the annealing and pickling line (No.4 AP line) will come onto stream at the end of the current year. No. 5 Sendzimir cold rolling mill will come into operation at the end of 2009, according to schedule.
· Middelburg Factory
The start-up of No. 4 Sendzimir cold rolling mill is planned for the first quarter of year 2009.
· Johor Bahru Factory
Bahru Stainless Society has been already incorporated, having obtained the “Manufacturing License” from the Malaysian Industry Ministry. Likewise, the awarding of the main equipment for the first investments phase are already taking place. The works for preparing the land are under way.
Payment to the Shareholder
ACERINOX, S.A. Board of Directors in its meeting held today, has agreed to refund an issue premium for an amount of 0.10 euros per share, identical to that paid in October 2007, which will be effective on the 3rd October.
On the 4th July a complementary dividend of 0.15 euros per share on account of year 2007 was paid, as it was agreed in the General Shareholders Meeting.
The total payments to the shareholders in year 2008 will amount to 0.45 euros per share.
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