‘Worst times over, Q4 to mark turnaround,’ feels Essar Steel

‘Worst times over, Q4 to mark  turnaround,’ feels Essar Steel
Contrary to market perceptions over its financial and operational performance, Essar Steel India feels its "worst times" are over and is on its way to post a turnaround in the March quarter. Optimistic of its financial situation, the Mumbai-based company said it has already paid lenders over Rs 20,000 crore in the last three-and-a-half years by way of interest and principal repayments with promoters infusing Rs 9,000 crore and the balance coming through Ebidta.

Besides, the Ruias-promoted firm -- part of the oil-to-steel Essar Group -- claims that it has a low debt/tonne at Rs 30,000 as against the industry average of Rs 35,000 per tonne. "January-March is our turnaround quarter. The worst times are behind. See gas prices have come to USD 6 per mmBtu, all the critical raw material inputs are in place and the markets are responding to the government's measures on curbing cheap imports," Essar Group Director J Mehra said.

The firm claims its production has doubled since November last year and is operating at 70 per cent capacity utilisation at present resulting in an improvement in Ebidta margin, which has risen to 18-20 per cent from 5 per cent in November 2015. Mehra added that the firm, which has a 10 million tonnes per annum steel making capacity at Hazira (Gujarat), expects to clock a capacity utilisation rate of 80-85 per cent in the next financial year starting April 2016.

For the entire 2015-16 fiscal, Essar Steel India expects to clock a capacity utilisation rate of 50-55 per cent as against 30-35 per cent in 2014-15. Speaking to reporters earlier, Essar Steel India CEO and Managing Director Dilip Oommen said the firm's efforts over the last few months in strengthening operations, supported by stable markets and encouraging response from customers, has given us confidence to aim for full production in 2016-17.

"We produced 3.64 lakh tonnes of steel last month and in March we expect to clock an output of 5 lakh tonnes. Besides, we have completed all the upstream and downstream projects at competitive costs to achieve 10 MTPA and all units have become operational," Oommen said. The availability of gas at economic prices has enabled Essar Steel to operationalise the gas based DRI units, which is further aided by captive gas from COREX and Blast furnace, he added.

On the company's debt position, Essar Steel India CFO Mahadev Iyer said the firm has a net debt of about Rs 38,000 crore, of which Rs 30,000 crore is long-term loan and the remaining is working capital. "We are comfortably placed on the debt front. Half of the long-term debt is under the Reserve Bank's 5.25 scheme and we are in talks with the lenders to getting the remaining Rs 15,000 crore under the RBI scheme," he added.

On the sale of assets to pare debt, Iyer said due to the RBI clarification on firm not allowed to sell and then lease assets, the option has been discarded.


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