Arrium Flags More Profit Gloom

Arrium has forecast a fall in profit this year amid weaker iron ore and steel prices.

Shareholders were given the bad news at the company’s annual general meeting on Monday.

The company’s share price has sunk by nearly 50 per cent – from 56.5 cents to 28.5 cents – since the launch of a $754 million capital raising in September.

The mining and materials group swung back into the black with a $205 million full year net profit in 2013/14, after the previous year’s $701 million loss.

However the plunge in the iron ore price since then has left the group’s mining business struggling to break even while its steelmaking business continues to lose money.

“We do expect total earnings for FY15 to be lower than FY14, largely due to the substantial impact of lower iron ore prices,” chief executive Andrew Roberts told the AGM.

“However earnings are also expected to be weighted to the second half due to expected stronger second half earnings in steel and mining consumables … as well as the benefits from our cost reduction program.”

No specific guidance figure was given due to the current volatility in its markets.

Despite the weak short-term outlook, the medium-term outlook was encouraging, the company said.

The best prospects for growth are in its international mining consumables business, which supplies minerals processing equipment to miners.

It has operations located close to one of the world’s largest copper reserves, Peru’s Serra Verde.

The steel business should benefit from increased construction activity related to major infrastructure projects expected around Australia, shareholders heard.

Cost cutting in its iron ore and steel businesses and a weaker Australian dollar should also help.

Peter Smedley stepped down as chairman after 14 years and used his final address to tell shareholders the company was better off since September’s controversial $754 million capital raising.

The raising was undersubscribed by 20 per cent and triggered the share price collapse to its current all-time low since being spun off from BHP.

“Arrium is now significantly better positioned with a stronger balance sheet and more appropriate capital structure for the current challenging environment,” Mr Smedley said.

He said the fall in iron ore prices had forced the company’s hand.

“Had we tried to do it today … it would have been considerably more difficult to achieve the same
result,” he said when questioned by shareholders.

Arrium is servicing $1.7 billion in net debt, more than double its current market cap of about $820 million.

While Arrium is traditionally a steelmaker, it has become more exposed to iron ore mining in recent years.

Arrium was heavily criticised over the timing of the raising, one month after it declared a three cent a share dividend.

Mr Smedley, 71, will be replaced by Jeremy Maycock, who is also chairman of AGL Energy.


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