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Fourth-quarter scorcher fires up SAIL

Calcutta, May 13: A buoyant market helped Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) claw back steeply with a 90 per cent reduction in its fourth-quarter net loss. The recovery will put it in a position to prune full-year losses by 65 per cent to a little over Rs 600 crore for the year ended March 2003, from Rs 1,706 crore in 2001-02.

“In all probability, net losses will fall to around Rs 600 crore. If demand and prices remain at current levels, the company will be able to stage a turnaround in the first half of the current financial year,” sources said.

The bleeding public sector company had reported net loss of Rs 557.5 crore in January-March 2003 compared with Rs 1,289.8 crore in the corresponding period of 2002-03.

“A demand spike at home and overseas helped us turn the corner. Prices have also improved, although there is room for further increases,” a senior SAIL executive said.

Turnover is expected to jump more than 20 per cent to Rs 19,000 crore in 2002-03 from Rs 16,047 crore. Fuelling the surge was a 27 per cent rise in the sale of rails, followed by a 25 per cent increase in hot-rolled coil orders.

The brightest spot has been exports, which went up a whopping 54 per cent to 8.5 lakh tonnes from 5.5 lakh tonnes. The SAIL official said company’s products had done extraordinarily well abroad, but hinted it might be difficult to sustain the tempo in the current financial year.

“Of course, our target is one million tonnes of exports, though the thrust in 2003-04 will be on increasing our sales in the domestic market,” he added.

Saleable steel production was up 7 per cent at 10.36 million tonnes against previous year’s 9.47 million tonnes. The company was able to save around Rs 400 crore by improving on several techno-economic parameters.

The debt burden was lighter by Rs 700 crore at Rs 13,300 crore. Much less was paid as salaries in 2002-03, the result of a reduction in staff-strength by around 10,000.

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