April 24, 2018 / 8:08 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Russian steelmaker NLMK's first-quarter core earnings hit 10-year high

(Adds details, quotes)

MOSCOW, April 24 (Reuters) - Russia’s largest steelmaker NLMK said on Tuesday its core earnings rose 31 percent year-on-year in the first quarter to a 10-year high, beating analysts’ expectations, due in large part to operational efficiency gains.

Core earnings of $812 million exceeded analysts’ forecasts for $784 million and rose from $618 million a year earlier.

NLMK, controlled by billionaire Vladimir Lisin, said first quarter revenue fell 1 percent on a quarterly basis to $2.8 billion due to a seasonal drop in sales.

However, this was offset by price increases. Year-on-year, revenue increased 30 percent, from $2.2 billion in the first quarter of 2017.

“The widening of steel product/raw material price spreads, gains from completed capex projects, and operational efficiency gains were the key drivers behind the growth of EBITDA to a 10-year high,” acting CFO Sergey Karataev said in a statement.

“A significant liquidity cushion and a strong balance (sheet) create favourable conditions for high dividend payments,” he added.

NLMK’s shares were up 0.6 percent at 154.89 in Moscow by 0833 GMT.

In March, NLMK’s board recommended a fourth-quarter dividend payout of 3.36 roubles ($0.0590) per share.

NLMK said first quarter net profit totalled $502 million, up 56 percent from $323 million in the same period last year. (Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Susan Fenton)

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