TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s top steelmaker Nippon Steel Corp on Thursday posted a 2% increase in April-December net profit to 517 billion yen ($4 billion) and said it would pay a record-high full-year dividend of 180 yen per share.
Nippon Steel has been enjoying a healthy profit, despite reduced steel output due to slow demand from automakers, in part because as it has been raising product prices to pass on soaring costs to customers.
The world’s No.4 steelmaker has also expanded high-end products that are more profitable than conventional steel.
The company, which kept its full-year net profit forecast unchanged at 670 billion yen, paid an annual dividend of 160 yen per share last financial year ended March 31, 2022.
It raised its full-year underlying business profit forecast by 60 billion yen to 690 billion yen, as it expects a bigger improvement in its metal margins than it forecast in November.
The steelmaker also said it expects its non-consolidated steel output to be 200,000 tonnes higher than estimated in its previous forecast.
The company’s most recent forecast predicts steel output of 34.2 million tonnes, excluding subsidiaries, in the year to March 31, down 4.5 million tonnes from a year before.
Takahiko Iwai, the company’s managing executive officer, said that, going forward, Nippon Steel expects a pick-up in car production and a recovery in steel prices, helped by an easing of COVID-19 restrictions by top buyer China.
As crude steel production is expected to slightly increase in Japan, “there are great expectations for a recovery in performance from the first quarter of 2023 financial year,” Iwai said on an earnings conference call.
In contrast, Kobe Steel, Japan’s third-biggest steelmaker, expects its steel sales volume to decrease from its previous November outlook as it forecasts a decline in overseas car production amid a continued shortage of chips.
On Thursday, Nippon Steel also reported a 21% increase in April-December sales to 6 trillion yen.
As Nippon Steel expands in lower-emission business including carbon capture and storage, it said it plans to issue a green bond on the Japanese market to co-finance production of electrical steel sheets used in eco-friendly car motors.
The size and maturity of the bond are yet to be announced and the issue itself may come in March or later, it added.
($1 = 130.8400 yen)
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova in Riga, Miho Uranaka and Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; editing by Jason Neely and Kylie MacLellan)