Slowdown blues: Weak demand forces JSW Steel to focus on exports

Bloomberg Mumbai | Updated on September 13, 2019

Seshagiri Rao, Joint Managing Director, JSW Steel   -  BusinessLine

The company is optimistic of pick up in demand during the second half of this fiscal.

India’s most valuable steel producer is looking outward as the slowest economic expansion in six years cuts demand in the South Asian country and puts pressure on margins.

JSW Steel expects to exceed its export target of 2.2 million to 2.4 million tonnes for the fiscal year after having seen the slowdown in the domestic demand, Joint Managing Director Seshagiri Rao said Thursday in an interview. That’s a reversal from April, when the Sajjan Jindal-led mill left its export target unchanged from a year earlier.

There has been a substantial increase in inventories, indicating falling demand in the last two months, Rao said in Mumbai. For the full year, growth will be slower than the earlier estimate of 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent, he said.

Demand for steel in India could grow at the slowest pace in three years as a crisis in the non-banking financial companies fuelled a cash crunch and economic growth slowed to a six-year low. The S&P BSE Metal Index is the biggest loser among 19 sector indexes on the Bombay Stock Exchange and shares of JSW have slumped nearly 28 per cent this year.

What we are hearing is that a lot of companies, particularly sponge iron players, pellet players and lot of secondary players are either cutting down or moderating production. Only the big players are still continuing and trying to sell and reduce inventories, Rao said. If demand doesn’t recover in the second half, then primary producers may have to review their production plans.

Read also: JSW Steel output dips 13% on weak demand

JSW will be able to meet its production target of 16.95 million tonnes for the current year despite a 13 per cent slump in August and the company won’t scale back its capital expenditure plans. Additional risks are seen from rising tax-free imports from South Korea and Japan. The countries don’t tax imports of raw materials unlike India, making it difficult for the domestic mills to compete, he said.

Historically, the second half is much better in terms of volumes and profitability, he said. There will be an improvement in demand in the second half compared to the first half on more government spending and the release of pending payments to industries.

Published on September 13, 2019

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