Significant increase in deliveries of core niche products SSAB today reported its results for 2003. Profit after financial items increased by SEK 527 million and amounted to SEK 1,343 (816) million. Earnings per share increased to SEK 8.90 (5.70). Deliveries of the Group's core niche products, extra and ultra high- strength sheet and quenched steels, increased by 18% compared with 2002. - This is a pleasing development; a particularly positive aspect is that this increase is due both to a continued expansion of our customer base and a continued increase in sales to existing customers, emphasises Anders Ullberg in a comment on the report. Including core niche products, total deliveries of our niche products of high-strength sheet and quenched steels account for 43% of total delivery volumes, notes Anders Ullberg. - The increase in profit over the preceding year is due to higher gross margins through increased steel prices and lower raw materials costs in the steel operations, as well as the increased share represented by core niche products, explains Anders Ullberg. - As a consequence of measures begun after the summer in order to curtail cost increases, it was possible to reduce processing costs during the fourth quarter by 7% compared with last year, continues Anders Ullberg. For the full year, we have thus been able to limit cost increases to 3%. - Demand for steel in Europe appears now to have bottomed out and thus steel consumption in 2004 is expected to be somewhat higher than in 2003. The strong growth in the Group's core niche products is expected to continue, while volumes in the trading and processing operations dependent on the Swedish market are expected to be essentially unchanged. It has been possible to carry out certain price increases in local currencies for sheet and plate pending the first quarter. - At the same time, we can note that the rapid growth in China is leading to significant increases in prices for raw materials for the steel industry, such as iron ore, coal, and steel scrap, as well as sea freight costs, says Anders Ullberg. - This is a new situation for us and all other steel companies. The challenge during 2004 will be to cope with this large increase in raw materials prices without any decline in gross margins in our operations, concludes Anders Ullberg. ------------------------------------------------------------ This information was brought to you by Waymaker The following files are available for download: