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Cleveland-Cliffs Steams Ahead in 2023, Eyes Growth and Buybacks in 2024

Vertically integrated steel giant Cleveland-Cliffs capped off a strong 2023 with solid Q4 results and optimistic forecasts for the year ahead. Here’s a breakdown of the key takeaways:

Q4 2023:

  • Steel output: 4.0 million net tons, with hot-rolled and coated products leading the charge.
  • Outlook: Continued focus on cost reduction and efficiency gains, aiming for a $30-per-ton drop in steel unit costs in 2024.

Full Year 2023:

  • Shipments: Record 16.4 million net tons, surpassing even 2021 despite operating fewer blast furnaces.
  • Financials: Robust cash flow used for debt reduction and strategic investments, including a $10 million hydrogen pipeline initiative.

2024 Outlook:

  • Production: Stable shipment target of 16.5 million net tons.
  • Cost savings: $500 million expected in Adjusted EBITDA thanks to cost reduction efforts.
  • Investments: $675-$725 million in capital expenditures, with potential for increased share buybacks.

Analyst Call Highlights:

  • US Steel saga: CEO and CFO Goncalves defended Cliffs’ acquisition bid and expressed doubts about Nippon’s current proposal.
  • Scrap market: Cliffs leverages FPG (its scrap company) to navigate market complexities and aims to stabilize scrap prices for smoother steel production.
  • Hydrogen exploration: Successful initial testing paves the way for further development of hydrogen-based steelmaking technology.

Overall, Cleveland-Cliffs is showing resilience and adaptability in a dynamic steel market. The company’s focus on cost-cutting, technological advancement, and strategic acquisitions positions it well for continued growth in 2024 and beyond.