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United States Steel (X)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 25, 2011 3:00 pm ET


Gretchen Haggerty - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

John Surma - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Member of Proxy Committee and Member of Executive Management Committee

Dan Lesnak -


Christopher David Olin

Timna Tanners - UBS Investment Bank

Luke Folta - Longbow Research

Mark Parr - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc.

Charles Bradford - Bradford Research

Justine Fisher - Goldman Sachs

Michelle Applebaum - Michelle Applebaum Research

Brian Yu - Citigroup Inc

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Sal Tharani - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Mark Liinamaa - Morgan Stanley

Michael Gambardella - JP Morgan Chase & Co



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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the United States Steel Corp. Fourth Quarter 2010 Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. [Operator Instructions] With that being said, I'll turn the conference now to the Manager of Investor Relations, Mr. Dan Lesnak. Please go ahead, sir.

Dan Lesnak

Thanks, John. Good afternoon, and thank you for participating in the United States Steel Corp.'s Fourth Quarter 2010 Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. We will start the call with some brief introductory remarks from U.S. Steel Chairman and CEO, John Surma. Next, I will provide some additional details for the fourth quarter and then Gretchen Haggerty, U.S. Steel Executive Vice President and CFO, will comment on the outlook for the first quarter of 2011. Following our prepared remarks, we'll be happy to take any questions.

Before we begin, however, I must caution you that today's conference call contains forward-looking statements and that future results may differ materially from statements or projections made on today's call. For your convenience, the forward-looking statements and risk factors that could effect those statements are referenced at the end of our release and are included in our most recent annual report on Form 10-K and updated on our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q in accordance with the Safe Harbor Provisions.

Now to begin the call, here is U.S. Steel Chairman and CEO, John Surma

John Surma

Thanks, Dan, and good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Earlier today, we reported a fourth quarter loss of $249 million or $1.74 per share. For the full year 2010, we reported a loss of $482 million or $3.36 per share. While we are by no means pleased with these results, they are a significant improvement over our 2009 results of a loss of $1.4 billion or $10.42 per share, but our company and our industry experienced the very severe effects of the global recession.

In 2010, there was improvement in many of the markets that we serve. And as a result, our total shipments increased by almost 50%. Our raw steel capability utilization rates in both North America and Europe were significantly higher than the extremely low levels of 2009 although we still have not recovered to what we consider historically normal levels.

We were able to restart our facilities in 2010 and put our people back to work, but the pace of the economic recovery continues to be uncertain, and our markets remain very volatile. We continue to focus on operating our facilities at levels consistent with our customer orders and as efficiently and safely as possible.

Speaking of safety, 2010 was a challenging year for us. We improved on two of our key safety measurements, global OSHA reportable case rate and global severity rate. We're disappointed that we did not improve on the third safety measurement, global days away from work case rate. We remain firmly committed to safety as our number one priority, and we continue to work towards our goal of zero injuries.

We're also committed to environmental excellence, and we are working to reduce emissions as well as our overall carbon footprint. Since we use a carbon-based industrial process, that's not necessarily easy. But it is something we're focused on, because it makes good business sense.

We've implemented a company-wide program with involvement from all levels of the organization, including our union representative employees, to investigate, create and share innovative and best practice solutions to reduce energy intensity per ton of steel and related CO2 emissions.

We're also committed to investing in technology to move the steelmaking process in an even more environmentally responsible direction as evidenced by our recent and ongoing projects to renew our coke making infrastructure, such as the SunCoke non-recovery battery at our Granite City Works and the carbonics facility currently under construction at Gary Works. Both are lower emitting technologies.

Also, we're incorporating the best environmental control technology available at the new byproducts recovery coke battery being built at our Clairton plant. Now let me get back to our results.

Operating income for our North American Flat-rolled segment improved by over $1.1 billion compared to 2009 as the benefits of higher prices, volumes and utilization rates and lower energy costs were only partially offset by higher raw materials costs and higher spending for facility repairs and maintenance.

While we realized similar benefits at our European operations in 2010, the magnitude of raw materials cost increases in Europe substantially offset these benefits and limited our improvement in operating income to $175 million.

Operating income for Tubular increased by almost $300 million in 2010. Shipments increased by 900,000 tons to almost 1.6 million tons. And average realized prices were lower, reflecting higher shipments of carbon-grade material as the excessive inventory of unfairly traded Chinese imports in the supply chain was consumed.

For the fourth quarter, our Flat-rolled results were slightly better than the third quarter as lower repair and maintenance spending was offset by lower average realized prices. Publicly reported spot prices bottomed in November when CRU reported $520 per ton for hot rolled.

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