The world's biggest stainless steel producer said its pre-tax profit in the 3months to March 31 rose to 250 million euros (U.S. $288 million) from 96 million a year ago, beating the 209-million euro average forecast in a Reuters poll. The steelmaker said it aimed at least to match first-half pre-tax profit of 391 million euros in its fiscal second half, assuming no further deterioration in the health of the economy.
European steel prices have been supported by strong Chinese demand, output discipline on the part of producers and by EU import restrictions set up last year to protect the market. Thyssen said its production sites were running at almost full capacity in the first 3 months of 2003, a period in which world crude steel output rose nine percent, with China the strongest growth market but the U.S. and Europe also on the up. Orders at the steel division rose 6 percent to 3.3 billion euros as a result, with sales and crude steel output both 10 percent higher than a year ago.
Thyssen said its net debt, a perpetual worry for investors, amounted to 4.9 billion euros at the end of March, up 189 million from September due partly to its dividend payment, but down 2.4 billion from a year ago. (Reuters)