ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steel maker, posted a sharp drop in first-quarter net profit Thursday, announcing earnings of $11 million compared with $1.069 billion for the same period a year ago.
The results, however, were an improvement over the fourth quarter of 2011, when the company posted a $1 billion loss.
In a statement, Lakshmi Mittal, ArcelorMittal's chairman and CEO, said demand in North American continued to grow, driven in part by the automotive sector and white and yellow good sectors. White goods are heavy consumer durables such as air conditioners, refrigerators and stoves. Yellow goods are materials for construction and earth-moving equipment.
Mittal added, though, that, "Europe remains the biggest challenge, and during the first quarter we announced the extended idling of a number of facilities in line with our strategy of meeting demand from our more competitive sites."
He said mining remained a key area for growth, and said ArcelorMittal planned to increase production this year.
Mittal also said ArcelorMittal had made good progress in divesting itself of noncore assets, and would take further steps along these lines in the rest of 2012 as part of a strategy to reduce net debt.