BlueScope Steel lost more than $436 million from its market value on a day it triumphantly declared that its manufacturing business was back.

Australia’s biggest steelmaker reported a full year net loss of $82.4 million, a narrowing of last year’s $107.1 million loss.

No dividend was declared, with the company not having handed out one since early 2011.

BlueScope’s shares sunk 78 cents, or 12.8 per cent, to $5.32 and was the third-most traded stock on the ASX amid investor disappointment at its fourth consecutive full year loss.

But chief executive Paul O’Malley insisted the steel maker’s underlying profit of $112.3 million, up from $6.7 million, was a great result.

The most pleasing aspect, he said, was the coated and industrial products division’s near $100 million turnaround to post its first profit since 2010 – a positive earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) result of $65.4 million.

“In my opinion Australian manufacturing is back and we’re waiting for others to join us,” he told reporters, referring to BlueScope’s business.

“Many of us thought that business would never return to the black … you can be a successful manufacturer in Australia.

“Those who are giving up the ghost on the manufacturing sector do so at their peril, it is so important as an employer, innovator and key part of a diversified economy.”

BlueScope has been rebuilding since its dark days of 2011 when it cut more than 1,000 jobs and made a $1 billion loss.

It exited steel exporting because it had become uncompetitive, closing a blast furnace at Port Kembla.

There had since been a $500 million underlying EBIT improvement and tremendous transformation, with BlueScope now having a globally diversified portfolio of value added steel products in Asia and north America, Mr O’Malley said.

Chairman Graham Kraehe said the company was getting closer to paying dividends again because of its improved performance.

BlueScope still had problems though, said Morningstar analyst Mathew Hodge, and was not worth the $3.4 billion market capitalisation it started the day with.

The discrepancy between net and underlying profit was $55 million on restructuring and writedowns of $87.6 million to its Australian operations, including its loss-making distribution segment that supplies the supposedly improving construction sector.

BlueScope could not keep separating those charges from its underlying profit every year, Mr Hodge said.

“If cash has gone out the door and you write that off, it is a real loss and to me that’s just in the normal course of business in a steel business.

“Steel making is a tough business, very competitive and when your competitors continually pull out costs so you have to too.”

The company is forecasting earnings to be flat in the first half but better growth over the next one to three years.


* Net loss of $82.4m, up from $107.1m in 2012/13

* Revenue of $8b, up 10 pct from $7.3b

* No final dividend, unchanged


By Greg Roberts