PARIS -- The world's top steel producer ArcelorMittal (IW 1000/35) said Wednesday it had plunged into the red last year with a net loss of $3.72 billion, largely due to previously announced writedowns and restructuring costs, but that it expected an improvement in 2013.
Operating profit measured by earnings before interest, tax and other charges (EBITDA) fell by 30% to $7.1 billion, close to analyst expectations.
"2012 was a very difficult year for the steel industry, particularly in Europe where demand for steel fell a further 8.8%," chief executive Lakshmi Mittal said.
The net loss was due in large part to the $4.3 billion charge the company took to write down the value of its assets in Europe, where steel demand has fallen by nearly a third since the global economic crisis set in.
The company also took another $1.3 billion in restructuring charges.
ArcelorMittal had posted a net profit of $2.3 billion in 2011.
Sales fell by 10.4% to $84.2 billion, with shipments of steel down 2.3% to 83.8 million tons.
Iron ore shipments rose by 5.4% to 54.4 million tons, however, with over half shipped at market prices.
The company said it expected steel sales to improve this year, climbing 2% - 3%, with iron ore sales at market prices to rise by 20%.
ArcelorMittal said this should help it increase operating profit in 2013.
"Although we expect the challenges to continue in 2013, largely due to the fragility of the European economy, we have recently seen some more positive indicators," said Mittal.
These, along with the steps the company has taken to focus on its most competitive assets and reduce its net debt "are expected to support an improvement in the profitability of our steel business this year", he added.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013