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UPDATE 1-Baosteel Q1 net falls 98 pct, sees weak H1

* Q1 net drops to 89 mln yuan vs forecast 350 mln

* Sees sharp drop in H1 net from year ago

* Says China economic stimulus will take time to have effect (Adds comments, details)

SHANGHAI, April 28 (Reuters) - China's top steelmaker, Baosteel 600019.SS, lagged market forecasts with a 97.7 percent drop in first-quarter net profit, as global demand weakened for products from cars to industrial machinery.

Baoshan Iron and Steel Co, which competes with South Korea's POSCO 005490.KS and Japan's Nippon Steel Corp 5401.T, said on Tuesday that it expected net profit in the first half would also fall sharply from a year earlier as the weakened steel market had not yet improved.

“Demand for domestic steel products market is weak, with no change in the situation of steel supply exceeding demand, while exports are falling remarkably,” Baosteel said in a statement.

It added that the Chinese government’s measures to support the steel industry would take time to have an effect.

The China Iron and Steel Association has said virtually all of the country’s steelmakers were loss-making or earned only a small profit in the first quarter, as oversupply in the world’s largest steel-making nation pushed down product prices.

ORE NEGOTIATIONS

Baosteel, the world’s fifth-largest steelmaker, said January-March net profit was 89 million yuan ($13 million), down from 4.26 billion yuan a year earlier, lagging an average market forecast for 350 million yuan. Earnings per share fell to 0.01 yuan from 0.24 yuan.

The company produced 4.72 million tonnes of pig iron and 5.13 million tonnes of crude steel in the first quarter. It gave no comparative figures, although it has said that a three-month delay in the restart of a major blast furnace reduced its pig iron production by about 1 million tonnes late last year and early this year.

Nippon Steel, the world’s second-largest steel mill, earlier reported a 74.3 billion yen ($771 million) quarterly loss, and forecast zero profit for the current year due to weak demand. [ID;nT17028]

Globally third-ranked JFE 5411.T has reported an 83 percent drop in quarterly profit and skipped giving any forecasts. [ID:nT146831]

Fourth-ranked POSCO’s quarterly profit fell 71 percent. [ID:nSEO4545]

Chinese steel mills, led by Baosteel's state-owned parent, are locked in annual iron ore price negotiations with global miners including BHP Billiton BHP.AXBLT.L, Rio Tinto RIO.AXRIO.L and Vale VALE5.SA.

Chinese firms have cited a slump in domestic steel prices as justification for cheaper ore from suppliers this fiscal year, but their high output has, in turn, been cited as evidence of strong Chinese demand.

Baosteel shares have risen 22 percent so far in 2009, underperforming the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC, which is up by more than 30 percent. (Reporting by Alfred Cang and Edmund Klamann; Editing by Ian Geoghegan and David Cowell)

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