Business

Highlighting industry's troubles, Kobe Steel's shares take huge hit

Bloomberg

Kobe Steel Ltd. tumbled as much as 13 percent in Tokyo to hit the lowest level in almost seven years after Japan’s third-biggest steelmaker swung to a first-quarter loss and warned that full-year profit will collapse.

The shares sank the most since 2017 after the company posted a ¥1.2 billion net loss in the three months to June 30 and forecast full-year net income will drop 72 percent. The impact of the U.S.-China trade war “has become apparent and the outlook is growing uncertain,” Yoshihiko Katsukawa, senior managing executive officer, said at a briefing in Tokyo on Friday.

Steelmakers around the world are facing a bleaker outlook as growth slows, trade-war risks escalate and they seek to manage costs after a first-half surge in iron ore. Fellow Japanese mill Nippon Steel Corp. tumbled the most in more than eight years Friday after forecasting full-year business profit will tank, and industry giant ArcelorMittal has cut its estimates for global demand.

Kobe’s quarterly earnings were “particularly weak at its major divisions, as the global macro slowdown weighed on the steel, aluminum and excavator businesses,” Thanh Ha Pham and Sangin Yun, analysts at Jefferies (Japan) Ltd., said in a report. “We think the new guidance is still based on overly aggressive assumptions.”

The trade war will curb earnings at the iron-and-steel unit, which accounts for about 37 percent of sales, due to lower sales to auto customers outside Japan, and also erode earnings at its aluminum and copper business, Kobe said. Earnings will be further crimped by lower sales of excavators in China, it said.

Kobe Steel stock retreated as much as ¥86 to ¥573, and traded at ¥575 at 9:52 a.m. in Tokyo, the biggest decliner in the key Nikkei 225 stock average. So far this year, the shares have dropped 24 percent. Nippon Steel and JFE Holdings Inc. also retreated.

The trade war escalated last week after President Donald Trump’s moved to impose a new round of tariffs on Chinese imports, with Beijing pledging to respond with countermeasures if the U.S. goes ahead.