Frontline steel makers’ production and sales rose in the fourth quarter of 2020-21 compared with the preceding quarter, pointing to a pent-up demand despite skyrocketing prices in the domestic market and excellent export opportunities.
The top five players, which account for about 55 per cent of India’s installed capacity —Tata Steel, JSW Steel, Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Jindal Steel & Power Ltd and AM/NS India (formerly Essar Steel) — all reported a strong set of numbers for the three months ended March 31.
The quarter, usually buoyant for steel consumption as the dry weather helps construction activities, had a terrible end last year as the Modi government imposed a lockdown at two days of notice.
Devoid of such unprecedented disruptions, steel mills managed to scale up production and sales significantly this year compared with the same period last year.
However, what is noteworthy is that all the firms, except AM/NS, managed to grow over the December quarter despite a heavy base (see chart).
JSW Steel’s crude steel production stood at 4.19 million tonnes (mt) in the fourth quarter, registering a growth of 2 per cent over the December quarter. The company’s average capacity utilisation improved from 91 per cent in the third quarter to 93 per cent in the fourth quarter. However, capacity utilisation in March 2021 was 96 per cent.
Tata Steel’s delivery volume was higher in the March quarter both in India and Europe. While the domestic growth was marginal, it was 18 per cent higher in Europe at 2.49 mt compared with 2.11mt in the preceding quarter. Exports constituted 11 per cent of the India deliveries.
At 4.27mt, SAIL’s volumes in the fourth quarter was 3 per cent higher than the preceding quarter’s 4.15mt. SAIL achieved its best ever annual sales of 14.87mt, 4.4 per cent higher than 14.23mt in the previous year.
JSPL, which focuses mainly on long products (used in construction) recorded 1.92 mt sales, surpassing 1.87mt in the third quarter. It also posted the highest ever annual sales of 7.28mt in 2020-21. The export market contributed 38 per cent of the deliveries.
AM/NS India, which only produces flat products that go into consumer durables and automobiles, saw a marginal decline at 1.7mt compared with 1.72mt in the December quarter. Sales were, however, up on a year-on-year basis.
A fresh round of price hikes coupled with export opportunities powered the scrips of all the listed companies which hit fresh 52-week highs on consecutive days.