Why Cliffs Natural Resources Earnings Are Beating Shares Down

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Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF) reported first-quarter 2017 results before markets opened Thursday. The iron ore and coal miner posted a net loss per share of $0.11 on revenues of $461.6 million. In the same period a year ago, the company reported earnings per share (EPS) of $0.62 on revenues of $305.5 million. The consensus estimate had called for EPS of $0.15 and $412.71 million in revenue for the most recent period.

Cliffs took a $72 million charge ($0.27 per share) related to the early extinguishment and restructuring of debt. Excluding that charge, earnings would have been $0.16 per share.

The company reduced its total debt by $550 million during the quarter. Total debt at the end of the period was $1.6 billion, down from $2.5 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2016. The company’s full-year 2017 interest expense is now expected to fall by $40 million to $135 million, of which $20 million is forecast to be noncash.

Total U.S. iron ore production volume rose from 3.05 million metric tons (tonnes) in the first quarter of last year to 4.28 million tonnes, and sales margins per tonne rose from $13.20 to $48.40.

CEO Lourenco Goncalves said:

During the first quarter, we put our finishing touches on what has been a remarkable operational, commercial and financial transformation of this company. Over the last two and half years, Cliffs has transformed itself into a lean and focused company, with a strong balance sheet and a lot less to pay in interest expense. This is particularly evident in our strong first quarter results, which exceeded our expectations in revenues, EBITDA and earnings per share. We expect 2017 to be a phenomenal year of EBITDA and free cash flow generation.

In its outlook statement, Cliffs said it expects to generate about $380 million in net income and $700 million in adjusted EBITDA for the full year. The company also reiterated its U.S. full-year sales projection of around 19 million tonnes. Cash production costs are still expected at $55 to $60 per tonne. In Asia/Pacific, the company expects sales volume of 11.5 million tonnes and cash production costs of $34 to $39 per tonne.

The company maintained its capital expenditures estimate of $105 million for the year.

Consensus estimates call for a second-quarter profit of $0.47 per share and revenues of $694.79 million. For the year, analysts are looking for a net profit per share of $1.29 on sales of $2.54 billion.

Cliffs traded down about 5% Thursday’s premarket session, at $6.83 in a 52-week range of $2.77 to $12.37. The consensus price target was $8.36 before this morning’s announcement.