April 17, 2018 / 10:38 AM / 7 days ago

UPDATE 1-Russia's Severstal beats forecasts as higher steel prices boost earnings

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MOSCOW, April 17 (Reuters) - Severstal, one of Russia’s top steelmakers, reported a 22 percent jump in quarterly core earnings as higher steel prices offset U.S. trade restrictions, beating analysts’ forecasts.

The company, controlled by billionaire Alexei Mordashov, previously said it had stopped steel supplies to the United States before Washington imposed an import duty of 25 percent on steel from several countries from March 23.

Severstal increased sales of some of its products to the U.S. market and European destinations due to the attractive pricing environment in the first quarter, it said in a statement on Tuesday. It made no other mention of the U.S. market.

It said last week it may redirect steel which it had previously been supplying to the United States to markets in the Middle East and Asia.

Severstal said its first-quarter earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) totalled $706 million, up from $578 million in the same period a year ago. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast an EBITDA of $696 million.

Its first-quarter revenue rose 23 percent to $2.2 billion.

“In the first quarter of 2018, steel and raw material demand remained high. Global steel prices were supported by winter restrictions in China and a seasonal increase in Chinese demand in March, which contributed to higher prices of raw materials,” the company said.

On Monday, it recommended a dividend payment of 38.32 roubles ($0.6) per share for the first quarter and amended its dividend policy, linking the payments to its free cash flow and net debt/EBITDA ratio instead of net income and net debt/EBITDA.

Russian export prices are expected to follow global trends in the second quarter, Severstal said, adding that it expected Russian steel demand to grow by 2.6 percent in 2018.

Severstal shares had risen 2.5 percent in Moscow by 0853 GMT in line with Moscow’s benchmark MICEX index. Russian stocks are supported on Tuesday by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to delay additional sanctions on Russia.

Shares in many Russian companies have come under pressure in recent days as Washington imposed sanctions on several Russian businessmen, companies and government officials on April 6 with aluminium company Rusal and its public debt most hit.

Neither Severstal nor Mordashov is subject to sanctions. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Louise Heavens)

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