ArcelorMittal turned a $5.1 billion profit, U.S. operations had its best year since 2007

ArcelorMittal’s offices at Indiana Harbor. The steelmaker grew profits by 12.7 percent last year.

ArcelorMittal, which lost $8 billion just four years ago, was riding high with an annual profit of $5.1 billion last year.

The Luxembourg-based steelmaker, one of the Region's largest industrial employers, boosted its annual profit by 12.7 percent as compared to the $4.6 billion in profit it made in 2017.

“2018 was a year of positive momentum for ArcelorMittal, characterized by important strategic and financial progress," ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal said. "Operating in a healthy market environment, the company enjoyed a strong financial performance, delivering substantial profitability improvement. Having considerably strengthened our balance sheet in recent years, we also regained our investment grade credit rating."

The multinational steelmaker produced 92.5 million tons of steel last year, which was down slightly as compared by 2017. It shipped 83.9 million tons, a 1.6 percent year-over-year decline.

In 2018, ArcelorMittal pulled in $10.3 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and $6.5 billion in operating income, a 20.3 percent year-over-year increase.

"Although the issue of global overcapacity persists and there are well publicized macro-economic risks, we expect further, moderate global steel demand growth this year," Mittal said. "Having considerably strengthened the company in recent years, we are in a strong position to generate healthy levels of free cash and prosper through the cycle.”

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ArcelorMittal USA had its best financial performance since 2007, ArcelorMittal USA CEO John Brett said.

Local steelworkers are expected to bring home profit-sharing checks, but Brett cautioned that the highly cyclical steel market is already softening.

"Financially, ArcelorMittal USA reported its best year since 2007, and we are proud of that performance," Brett said. "That said, we need to be realistic about what drove those results. For most of the year, we enjoyed a robust pricing environment producing increased margin spreads. However, we experienced deteriorating market conditions, both in terms of demand and price, in the fourth quarter, and we simply cannot rely on the support of external factors to sustain us in the years ahead."

This year may prove to have a tougher environment for steelmakers.

"While gains were realized on firm pricing contracts, the domestic market in 2019 is expected to be more challenging with weakening spot prices and increased capacity in the United States," Brett said. "ArcelorMittal USA will continue to focus on cost control, operational excellence, on-time delivery and providing innovative products and solutions to our customers. If we do that, we will have an opportunity to maintain the success we experienced in 2018."


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.