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SAIL out of the red in Q4

New Delhi, May 28: Helped by rising prices, Steel Authority of India (SAIL) has reduced its losses for the last financial year by over 80 per cent to Rs 304 crore. The steel behemoth has notched up a turnover of Rs 19,207 crore which is 24 per cent higher than what it achieved in the previous year.

SAIL, which has been in the red for the last five years, reported a net profit of Rs 242 crore in the last quarter of 2002-03. This is the first time the steel major has posted profit in any quarter during these five years.

Losses would have been higher at Rs 316 crore but for an unexpected tax refund of Rs 11.56 crore.

SAILís net sales realisation went up by a fifth because of higher prices, officials said. This, coupled with higher mild steel sales and an over 50 per cent increase in steel exports ó mainly to China and the US market, helped the PSU improve its financials.

ďSAIL still has accumulated losses of about Rs 3,000 crore. But, nevertheless, this result is a major achievement for us Ö we will be in the black this fiscal,Ē SAIL chairman V. S. Jain told The Telegraph.

The steel giantís net loss of Rs 304 crore is around Rs 1,400 crore lower than the loss it suffered in the previous fiscal.

The improvement in bottomline was also aided by a voluntary separation scheme (VRS), which saw some 10,000 workers being shed this fiscal reducing the staff strength to 1.37 lakh, officials said.

Another 6,500 workers are expected to be shed this fiscal through a new improved separation offer due to be launched in July.

Despite the VRS, SAILís staff costs went up by over Rs 500 crore or 16 per cent from Rs 3,250 crore in 2001-02 to Rs 3,723 crore last fiscal.

Similarly, fuel costs went up by 19 per cent from Rs 1,710 crore to Rs 2,037 crore, showing a tendency towards reporting higher cost per employee.

However, because of the overall better results, the steel giantís earnings per share ratio improved considerably from an equity analystís nightmare of negative 4.13 in 2001-02 to negative 0.74 in 2002-03.

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