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India bright spot in steel demand in Southeast Asia, says Moody’s

With steel consumption on the rise, India is expected to be the “brightest spot” in terms of demand in south and southeast Asia regions, according to a Moody's report on Monday.

Of the seven rated steel companies in Asia, six have stable outlooks and one has a positive outlook.

With steel consumption on the rise, India is expected to be the “brightest spot” in terms of demand in south and southeast Asia regions, according to a Moody’s report on Monday. Over the next 12-18 months, the country’s steel consumption rising at least 5.5%-6% every year on the back of a strong GDP growth of 7.3%-7.5% will keep the Indian steel industry on a strong footing, the credit rating agency observed.

The combined adjusted profit after tax for top 5 steel companies is estimated to rise 121% on a year-on-year basis to Rs 21,210 crore owing to a favourable demand environment, limited capacity addition and lower imports compared to four years ago, analysts said. Net revenues for the same set of companies are estimated to surge 27% to nearly Rs 3.80 lakh crore while the operating profit could go up by 34% y-o-y to Rs 65,638 crore.

While the Trump administration’s decision to slap an extra 25% duty on steel supplies from select countries has raised concerns in China, Japan and Korea, Indian steel producers have remained fairly insulated so far due their marginal exposure to the US. India’s steel exports to the US account for a tad over 3% of the total exports.

“Rated Indian steel producers have marginal exposure to the US. We estimate that their indirect exposure may also be limited given most of their sales are to domestic automotive and manufacturing companies,” Moody’s said. Share prices of Indian steel makers have also been on the rise. For instance, Tata Steel’s share price has gained 23% from its July low and JSW Steel’s stock has gained 35% during the same period. The SAIL scrip has gained 8% from its July low.

According to Moody’s, business fundamentals and profitability will vary by company and country. Of the seven rated steel companies in Asia, six have stable outlooks and one has a positive outlook. Among Indian steel companies, JSW Steel’s ratings was upgraded in March to Ba2 stable from Ba3 stable, while in May, it affirmed Ba3 rating on Tata Steel and changed the outlook to positive from stable.

“Tata Steel’s recent acquisition of 5.6 million tonne producer Bhushan Steel (Bhushan), to be re-branded under the “Tata” group, will underpin the increase in the company’s steel shipments by over a third. And, we expect a mid-single-digit increase in EBITDA per tonne for the company’s Indian operations over the next 12 months. Moreover, Tata Steel’s backward integration in iron ore and coking coal augurs well in times of rising input prices,” the agency said.

JSW’s EBITDA per tonne will also increase by a mid-single digit, with the effect of rising input prices compensated by an increasing proportion of specialty and high value-added products and cost reductions. For the three months of April-June 2018, Tata Steel, on a standalone basis, reported EBITDA/tonne of over Rs 17,000, which was about 61% higher on a y-o-y basis. The increase for JSW Steel was even more prominent, as the EBITDA per tonne doubled on a y-o-y basis to nearly Rs 12,600.

With minimal new capacity expected to be commissioned in India till 2021, robust steel demand – especially from the construction, infrastructure and automotive sectors – will keep end-product prices high. According to analysts at Edelweiss Securities, the domestic steel market is expected to remain tight for the next two years as capacity augmentation is expected to be just 7 million tonne through FY20 against incremental demand of 6–7 MTPA per year; production and demand growth are likely to remain in a range of 6–7% each.

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