Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, posted a net loss of $7.9 billion for 2015. The company’s steel shipments during the year were 84.6 million metric tons, down 0.6 percent compared to the year before, it announced Friday.
The figure of $7.9 billion included $4.8 billion in impairment charges, of which $3.4 billion was in the company’s mining segment and the remaining $1.4 billion in the steel division. The loss amount also included $1.4 billion in exceptional charges, of which $1.3 billion was on account of inventory-related charges, “following the rapid decline of international steel prices” during 2015, the steel giant said. In comparison, the total cost of impairment and exceptional charges stood at $264 million in 2014.
Sales in 2015, at $63.6 billion, fell 19.8 percent from 2014 due to lower average steel selling prices, lower steel shipments and lower seaborne iron ore reference prices, offset in part by higher market priced iron ore shipments, according to the company’s statement.
ArcelorMittal CEO Lakshmi N. Mittal said in the statement: “Although demand in our core markets remained strong, prices deteriorated significantly during the year as a result of excess capacity in China.”
Referring to the impact of low prices, he added: “Our mining business is fully focused on adapting to this low price environment and has reduced cash costs by 20% compared with an initial target of 15%. A further 10% is targeted for 2016.”
The low price of steel, combined with overcapacity and low demand in China, forced the company two weeks ago to scrap its plans to set up a 6 million ton-capacity steel plant in India. ArcelorMittal reportedly asked the local government for permission to use the allotted land to set up a solar farm instead. Around the same time, the company also announced that it was indefinitely idling a 1.5 million ton-capacity plant in Spain in the face of adverse market conditions, according to reports.
On a somewhat positive note, the company announced that its net debt had fallen “to its lowest level since the ArcelorMittal merger.” At the end of 2015, its net debt stood at $15.7 billion, $100 million less than the end of 2014.
Mittal announced the sale of the company’s 35 percent shareholding in Gestamp Automoción, a Spanish engineering company, to the majority shareholding Riberas family for 875 million euros ($980 million). The steelmaker will get another $10.2 million from Gestamp as dividend for 2015. The entire amount of almost $1 billion would go toward reducing the company’s debt further.
ArcelorMittal also announced a proposal to increase its capital by $3 billion during the first half of 2016, reducing its net debt to less than $12 billion. Mittal himself has committed to buy about $1.1 billion worth of the rights issue the company will announce to raise the money.
In his statement, Mittal also warned that "2016 will be another difficult year for our industries."