The man behind the world's biggest steelmaker claims there are still too many uncertainties to accurately predict what the rest of the year holds for his business.
"Whilst these are likely to be an easing, not an immediate ending of lockdown, construction and manufacturing are expected to be among the first sectors to be permitted to re-start operations and indeed we are seeing signs of customers re-starting production. Rigorous planning to ensure we can meet customer demand whilst protecting the health and safety of our people has been undertaken, leaning on the experience of our plants which have already been on this journey," said Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal.
Mittal spoke of his company's improved operating performance in Q1 being overshadowed by the COVID-19 crisis and claimed that the company had moved decisively to protect the business 'in the face of the completely unprecedented scenario. He said that the social and economic lockdown had contributed to a significant decline in demand.
"We moved swiftly to temporarily idle furnaces, cutting production across markets and reducing operating and capital costs to match this environment. We have continued to meet remaining customer demand from a reduced level of production and are very thankful to our employees and stakeholders for their support in enabling plants to keep running," Mittal said.
However, the company's first priority, Mittal said, was to take all the necessary actions to safeguard the wellbeing of ArcelorMittal employees and provide support to the extent required in the communities in which the business operates.
“The remainder of this year will be challenging, but I am confident that ArcelorMittal has the experience and inherent resilience, to manage through these difficult times. As a result of the hard work undertaken in recent years to strengthen the balance sheet, we went into the COVID-19 crisis with the lowest net debt since the creation of the Company, which is a matter of considerable comfort," he said.
“I am particularly grateful for the commitment shown by our teams in these recent weeks. Crises do tend to bring out the best in people and we have many examples of this, from our employees working in our plants to produce steels for essential products, to our facilities around the world looking to see how they can support their local communities, to our research and development teams harnessing their skills and expertise in ways quite unconnected with steel-making, for example in the design of 3D printers and ventilators. Together we will continue to navigate these extraordinary times and ensure that ArcelorMittal is able to secure the wellbeing of its people and its position as the world’s leading steel Company," Mittal concluded.
As for the numbers, ArcelorMittal has reported a net loss of $1.1 billion for Q1 2020.
According to the company, its improved operating performance during Q1 2020 reflects positive market development prior to the arrival of the pandemic and this resulted in an operating loss of $0.4 billion when compared to a $1.5 billion loss in Q4 2019.
Despite the challenges thrown up by COVID-19, ArcelorMittal continues to target achievement of its $7 billion net debt objective in the near term.