Steelmaker Arcelor SA yesterday reported a better-than-expected profit of 761 million euros (US$968 million) for the first quarter, down 20 percent on the same period last year as steel prices fell and the cost of oil rose.
Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected Arcelor to post a 27 percent fall in net profit to 715.5 million euros, from 934 million euros a year earlier.
Arcelor said it expects selling prices to pick up in the second quarter as demand for steel "is now strong and rising."
"Thanks to a very good demand in the second and the third quarters, Arcelor expects excellent performance and very strong results in line with its ambitious targets of value creation for shareholders," it said in a statement.
Arcelor has rejected a 21 billion euros cash-and-stock offer from rival Mittal Steel Co that would combine the world's top steelmakers into a titan with nearly a 10 percent share of global steel production and a market capitalization close to US$40 billion.
Arcelor chief executive Guy Dolle said Mittal's refusal to hand over sensitive business information meant he would not meet with Mittal chairman and chief executive Lakshmi Mittal.
Arcelor said full details of a business plan -- which Mittal says it cannot share without causing regulatory problems -- was a precondition for any meeting.
Dolle also slammed Mittal's offer as "insufficient."
The company said overall revenues increased by 17 percent to 9.56 billion euros in the first quarter compared to 8.15 billion euros for the same period last year, thanks to its takeovers of Brazilian stainless steel firm Acesita and Canada's Dofasco.