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Cleveland-Cliffs shares up on rosy revenue outlook

Shares in North America’s dominant iron ore producer Cleveland-Cliffs gained as much as 5.7% in New York on Monday after the company projected a 320% year-on-year increase in December-quarter revenues.
Cleveland-Cliffs shares up on rosy revenue outlook Cleveland-Cliffs shares up on rosy revenue outlook Cleveland-Cliffs shares up on rosy revenue outlook Cleveland-Cliffs shares up on rosy revenue outlook Cleveland-Cliffs shares up on rosy revenue outlook

Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves says the company's preliminary Q4 2020 revenue forecast is a pointer to better times ahead

The Ohio-based company said it could not yet release its full-year, and December-quarter results since the extensive accounting integration associated with its acquisition of ArcelorMittal USA in December was still ongoing.

It did say, however, revenues for the three months were expected to increase to US$2.2-2.3 billion, which was higher than the consensus forecast for $2.04 billion. This compares with the year-earlier figure of $534 million, and $696 million for the same period in 2018.

Cliffs said Q4 EBITDA was also set to increase 150% year-on-year to $280-290 million. The company reported steel sales volumes of 1.9 million net tons.

The past 24 months has been a transformative period for Cliffs, with CEO Lourenco Goncalves charting a corporate strategy to "right-size" in terms of its product and customer mix.

With the $1.4 billion cash-and-scrip acquisition of ArcelorMittal now closed, Cliffs is positioned as the continent's largest integrated iron ore and steel producer.

The ArcelorMittal deal marked the second large transaction for the company in a year, following its December 2019 acquisition of integrated steel producer AK Steel for $1.1 billion. 

Cliffs has also commissioned its new direct reduction hot briquetted iron plant near Toledo. The HBI plant, production from which will replace imported pig iron from Russia and Ukraine, is expected to achieve its design rate in the second quarter.

Goncalves said the company's fourth-quarter results were "just a sample of what we should be able to accomplish in 2021" when the contributions of ArcelorMittal USA and the sales of HBI were expected to be fully reflected in its numbers.

"With the backdrop of a resilient steel pricing environment and the growing number of steel companies competing for an increasingly scarce scrap supply in 2021 and beyond, Cleveland-Cliffs will continue to benefit from our differentiated business model with self-sufficiency in pellets and HBI," said Goncalves.

Average benchmark iron ore prices have increased more than 117% in the past 12 months from a low of $78.33 per dry tonne to $170/t.

The company will announce its Q4 and 2020 earnings results before US markets open on February 25.

Cleveland-Cliffs' share price (NYSE:CLF) achieved an intra-day high of $17.33 on Monday, not far off its 12-month high at $18.77, but traded at $16.50 by noon. The company has a market capitalisation of $7.88 billion.