GrafTech International, a maker of graphite rods used in steel making and graphite parts used in electronics, has turned in another quarter of losses, capping off a year of decline in sales, profits and the value of its stock.
The big driver of the declines at GrafTech has been the slowdown of the global economy, which in turn has walloped steel making, which globally now has more capacity than needed.
During the last year, the company has reduced its global workforce by about 20 percent, including a decentralizing of its corporate management, that included a 25 percent workforce reduction. The company’s belt tightening now in place is saving $120 million a year.
Here are the basic numbers the company reported Monday:
The company operates two major divisions, one heavy industrial division which manufactures graphite rods used in electric arc furnaces making steel from scrap steel, and a second, newer division that makes products for the electronic industry and other specialized engineering applications including fuel cells, solar panels and aerospace.
The industrial division’s sales revenue was $840 million, an 8 percent slide from 2013 levels, said the company, mostly because competition in the tight steel-making environment drove down prices along with demand.
The engineered products division, which the company has in the past presented as a counter to cyclical furnace electrode sales that reflect steel making, also ran into problems. Total sales revenue for the year were $245 million, 5 percent below 2013 totals, mostly because the consumer electronics business faltered.
The outlook for GrafTech’s electrode business this year is not much better, CEO Joel Hawthorne told investors in the nearly one-hour conference call.
The global economy is expected to grow at just 3 percent, and the only rosy economic news is in the United States, he said.
But U.S. steelmakers are worried about imported steel and a decline in orders from the oil and gas industry as low oil prices are leading to a slowdown in drilling. GrafTech’s overseas customers are even more pessimistic, Hawthorne added.
He said the company expects a very weak first quarter this year and electrode sales to be down for the entire year and that average prices will also fall, declining 7 to 8 percent in the first first half of the year.
The company is expecting sales in engineered solutions division to increase — but the prices it can charge are expected to decline compared to what it charged in 2014.
The division’s scientists are working on 20 long-term projects aimed at creating new products, Hawthorne said, but admitted during the question and answer session that he did not expect to commercialize any of those research projects this year.
As for steel, Hawthorne said the company expects to run its electrode factories at about 80 percent of capacity this year, slightly below 2014 levels.
Hawthorne emphasized the company’s cost cutting measures both in his remarks to analysts and in a statement accompanying the results released earlier.
“Over the past 15 months, we have been driving important change throughout the organization to build sustainable operating leverage and dramatically improve results,” he wrote in the statement.
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