By Marine Strauss
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, reported higher than expected first-quarter earnings on Thursday after what it said was its strongest quarter in a decade.
The company said it expects global steel demand to grow by between 4.5% and 5.5% this year, with inventories low after prolonged destocking, capacity utilisation rising and steel spreads healthy. Excluding China, that growth would be 8.5% to 9.5%, with a strong rebound expected in India.
The Luxembourg-based company reported first-quarter core profit (EBITDA) of $3.24 billion, more than three times the $967 million a year earlier and higher than the $2.97 billion average forecast in a company poll.
"The first quarter of this year has been our strongest in a decade," CEO Aditya Mittal said in a statement.
"We are seeing a continuation of the positive market dynamics of the fourth quarter and have been steadily bringing back production in line with the demand recovery, which is supported by low inventory levels through the value chain."
The group said it had benefited from a strong recovery in steel demand led by the auto industry, resulting in higher steel shipments and improved margins.
It also expects iron ore shipments of about 39 million tonnes this year, from 38.2 million tonnes in 2020.
(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarineEditing by Philip Blenkinsop and David Goodman)