ArcelorMittal SA’s steel plant near Vanderbijlpark. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/RUSSELL ROBERTS
ArcelorMittal SA’s steel plant near Vanderbijlpark. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/RUSSELL ROBERTS

Whole industry shutdowns amid the Covid-19 pandemic dealt a hammer blow to ArcelorMittal SA’s earnings, leaving the unit of the world’s biggest steel maker of the same name with a half-year loss of at least R2bn.

Africa’s largest steel maker said in a trading update that it expects its headline loss to worsen by at least R2bn from the prior period’s R638m, sending its shares tumbling more than 15% and valuing the company at R386m.

The stock, which ended at R3.30 on Wednesday, has lost more than two-thirds of its value so far in 2020.

ArcelorMittal SA has been under pressure from lower steel prices and weak demand in recent years, forcing it to retrench workers and close some mills. Rising material, electricity and port costs added to its operational woes. Lockdowns of whole industries further weighed on demand.

Global steel demand is expected to fall 6.4% in 2020 after consumers in industries such as construction and vehicle manufacturing shut down, bracing for one of the biggest economic downturns in generations.

ArcelorMittal SA said that after an “already demanding 2019, the first half of 2020 proved to be an incredibly difficult period given the extraordinary and widespread social and business impact as wrought by the global Covid-19 pandemic”.

The company cut more than 1,000 jobs in 2019 and is winding down its Saldanha plant in the Western Cape, which it views as no longer commercially viable.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za

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