* Q1 adjusted EBIT, ex Steel Americas, flat at 277 mln euros
* New CEO: company strategy should be “predictable”
* Shares close up 0.3 pct, lag sector gain
(Adds background, analyst comment, share price)
By Marilyn Gerlach
FRANKFURT, Jan 21 (Reuters) - ThyssenKrupp said it was on track to meet its goals for the year as demand at home helped the German steelmaker navigate global price pressures and slowing Chinese growth.
With the German economy benefiting from a rebound in emerging economies and the weaker euro making exports more competitive, ThyssenKrupp (TKAG.DE) has enjoyed strong appetite for German high-end engineering products, luxury cars and industrial factory equipment.
For the full year 2010/11 to September, ThyssenKrupp forecast sales growth of 10-15 percent, with adjusted earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) at around 2 billion euros ($2.63 billion) compared with 1.2 billion in fiscal 2010.
Across the broader industry, steelmakers are facing a double whammy this year as demand growth from top consumer China slows to single digits and raw material costs rise due to limited supplies.
POSCO (005490.KS), the world’s No. 3 steelmaker, posted a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit last week and warned it was struggling to pass on rising costs as floods in Australia disrupt raw material supplies. [ID:nTOE70B047]
ArcelorMittal ISPA.AS, the world’s largest steelmaker, has also suffered from its exposure to the construction industry, unlike competitors such as ThyssenKrupp and Salzgitter SZG.DE which produce more flat steel used principally for cars.
ThyssenKrupp, Germany’s biggest steelmaker, said that except for Steel Americas, all businesses contributed positively to group earnings.
Demonstrating the economic boom on its home turf, Germany’s Ifo business sentiment index showed that morale rose to its highest level in 20 years in January. [ID:nLDE70K0O0]
ThyssenKrupp shares closed 0.3 percent higher at 29.95 euros, while the STOXX Europe 600 Basic Materials index .SXPP was up 0.7 percent.
Analysts said that more important than the trading statement was the new chief executive’s strategy.
Incumbent Ekkehard Schulz, dubbed Iron Ekki and a 69-year-old engineer who has been with the company for nearly four decades, hands over to Heinrich Hiesinger at the annual shareholders’ meeting today.
Hiesinger, 50, and a former executive at Siemens (SIEGn.DE) with no steel background, told shareholders he would present his strategy by the middle of this year.
“It (the trading statement) will help boost sentiment but it’s not the big bang. The big trigger is Hiesinger’s comments on the company’s strategy,” said Kepler Capital Markets analyst Rochus Brauneiser.
ThyssenKrupp suffered a blow last week when finance chief Alan Hippe, who is closely linked to the company’s restructuring strategy, resigned to join Roche. [ID:nLDE70D0OQ]
Seeking to calm jitters among investors, Schulz said the company was well positioned to face the future and that appointing Hiesinger was a “very good decision”.
Chairman Gerhard Cromme told shareholders Hiesinger might also temporarily assume the role of a finance director while the company searched for a successor to Hippe.
Shareholders at the AGM asked Hiesinger to provide details of his strategy but he declined, saying he wanted to know more details about some business areas.
He said the company’s strategy should be “sustainable” and “predictable”, and that net debt reduction was a top priority.
Some analysts said they were concerned Hiesinger would veer away from the steel business and focus more on the industrial units, which had generated profits while steel prices slumped amid the recession in 2009.
ThyssenKrupp said sales were set to rise to more than 11 billion euros ($14.8 billion) in its fiscal first quarter to the end of December, from 9.35 billion in the year-earlier period, with underlying earnings matching the year-earlier 277 million.
It is due to publish first-quarter results on Feb. 11.
Additional reporting from Tom Kaeckenhoff; Editing by Alexander Smith, Sophie Walker and David Hulmes