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U.S. Steel (X) Q1 Loss Wider than Expected, Revenues Miss

U.S. Steel X logged bigger loss of $340 million or $2.32 per share in the first quarter of 2016, hurt by lower selling prices and shipments. The steel giant recorded a loss of $75 million or 52 cents per share a year ago.

Barring supplemental unemployment and severance costs, loss was $2.15 per share for the reported quarter, wider than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of $1.29.

Revenues tumbled roughly 28% year over year to $2,341 million in the fourth quarter, hit by lower selling prices. Sales fell well short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2,534 million. Total steel shipments declined around 12% year over year in the quarter.

U.S. Steel continued to face challenging steel market conditions in the first quarter. High levels of imports and lower drilling activities by energy companies continued to put pressure on pricing and shipments. These headwinds were partly offset by the company’s cost management actions.

Despite some favorable development on the import front in the recent past, U.S. Steel and other domestic steel makers including AK Steel AKS, Nucor NUE and Steel Dynamics STLD are still facing pricing pressure due to high levels of subsided imports. Moreover, depressed oil prices are affecting demand for steel in the energy market.

U.S. Steel, in a separate release, said that it has lodged a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission ("ITC") to start an investigation against the biggest Chinese steel makers and their distributors. The company has accused these producers and distributors for unfair competition and is seeking the exclusion of all unfairly traded Chinese steel products from the domestic market.


Segment Highlights

U.S. Steel’s Flat-Rolled segment recorded a loss of $188 million in the quarter, higher than a loss of $67 million in the year-ago quarter, hurt by lower prices. Average realized prices fell to $611 per ton in the quarter from $768 per ton a year ago.

The U.S. Steel Europe (“USSE”) segment recorded a loss of $14 million in the reported quarter versus last year’s profit of $37 million. Lower euro-based prices affected the division’s results.

U.S. Steel’s Tubular segment registered a loss of $64 million in the quarter versus a profit of $1 million a year ago. Lower drilling activity and high volumes of imports hurt shipments and pricing in the quarter.

U.S. Steel exited the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $705 million, down 44% year over year. Total debt was essentially flat at $3,121 million. Cash provided by operating activities climbed around 55% year over year to $113 million for the quarter.  


Moving ahead, U.S. Steel envisions improving market conditions for its Flat-Rolled and European divisions. Recent favorable preliminary trade rulings (that led to levy of heavy tariffs on imports) on steel trade cases have been a catalyst for improved domestic market conditions. The company also noted that the impact of recent rise in prices for flat-rolled products will start to reflect in its results in the second quarter.

CEO Mario Longhi said that the company will remain focused on improving its cost structure and is making progress on its Carnegie Way program amid the still challenging operating environment.

If the prevailing market conditions (including spot prices and import volumes) remain at their current levels, the company expects adjusted earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for 2016 to be near $400 million. If market conditions change (which the company expects to occur during the balance of 2016), U.S. Steel sees adjusted EBITDA to change consistent with the pace and magnitude of changes in market conditions.

U.S. Steel expects roughly $500 million of cash benefits from working capital improvements in 2016, mainly associated with better inventory management. It generated cash benefits of roughly $300 million in the first quarter.

U.S. Steel has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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