* Crude steel output increases 8.6 pct in 2013/14
* Aims for 7.65 mln T crude steel output in 2014/15
* Returns to black in 13/14, but sees lower profit in 14/15
(Adds comment, detail)
TOKYO, April 25 Kobe Steel Ltd, Japan's
No.3 steelmaker, said its crude steel output hit a 6-year peak
in the business year just ended and that production this year
would be similar due to robust domestic demand.
The rise is in line with overall Japanese crude steel
output, which marked its highest level in six years in the
2013/14 year that ended March 31. It was boosted by strong
construction and automobile demand as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
pushed to revitalise the nation's economy with infrastructure
investments and monetary easing.
Kobe Steel's crude steel output rose 8.6 percent
year-on-year in 2013/14 to 7.62 million tonnes - the highest
It plans to produce 7.65 million tonnes this year, the
company's executive officer Naoto Umehara told a news conference
"Demand for automobile steel is expected to remain as sound
as last business year and demand from ship builders will likely
pick up," Umehara said.
"Construction demand will also stay strong thanks to
government stimulus and rebuilding work in the northeast region
(hit by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011)."
Rival JFE Holdings Inc said on Thursday it aimed to
increase its crude steel output by about 5 percent in 2014/15.
A cooling of China's economy and an oversupply of steel in
Asia has hit many of the region's steelmakers, but Japanese
producers are being supported by the "Abenomics" economic
Kobe Steel returned to the black in the year just ended,
with 85.04 billion yen ($832 million) in group recurring profit,
which is pretax and before one-off items, against a recurring
loss of 18.15 billion yen a year earlier.
Increased steel output, improved steel prices and large
appraisal profits on raw material inventories were behind the
turnaround, Umehara said.
The company forecast a 5.9 percent drop in its recurring
profit in 2014/15 to 80 billion yen, due mainly to a lack of the
big appraisal gains it had a year earlier.
"If we exclude the appraisal gains factor, our earnings
would see an increase this year," said Akihiro Yamamoto, Kobe
Steel's general manager.
The firm's forecast is in line with the average estimate by
13 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S at 81.23 billion
JFE on Thursday said its recurring profit grew 3.3-fold to
173.68 billion yen in the 13/14 from a year earlier. It did not
provide its forecast for this year.
In contrast, South Korean steelmaker POSCO on
Thursday cut forecast for sales and investment for this year
after its first quarter operating profit fell 11 percent to 518
billion Korean won ($498.5 million) in the January to March
quarter as China's slowing economy curbed demand for steel.
($1 = 102.2350 Japanese Yen)
($1 = 1039.2000 Korean Won)
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Dominic Lau and Joseph