JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - ArcelorMittal South Africa, a unit of the world's biggest steelmaker, on Tuesday posted a return to full-year profit, lifted by stronger sales, and said it expects solid results ahead.
The company said diluted headline earnings per share for the year to end-December totalled 343 cents, compared with a loss of 104 cents a year earlier.
Headline earnings are the main gauge of profit in South Africa and strip out certain one-time items.
Revenue totalled 30.22 billion rand, up from 25.59 billion rand in the previous year.
The company said growing demand for steel and higher global prices would boost its earnings in the first quarter of 2011.
"A significant turnaround in earnings is anticipated for the first quarter 2011 compared to the loss for the last quarter of 2010," it said in a statement.
The company, however, said the earnings would be partially offset by rising prices of raw materials, mainly scrap.
The global steel sector has been caught in a margin squeeze since the middle of 2010, when raw material costs began steadily to increase, but steel prices dropped while the industry as a whole took a breather.
The company also said the arbitration proceedings relating to its stake in Kumba's Sishen mine were in progress and a hearing date was yet to be set.
ArcelorMittal South Africa has been at loggerheads with Kumba, a unit of Anglo American, over iron ore prices.
It is also attempting to buy little-known mining firm Imperial Crown Trading after that company won a prospecting right to a stake in Kumba's Sishen mine.
As part of that deal, ArcelorMittal South Africa has said it would transfer about a quarter of its shares to black investors, including ICT and an investment group led by the son of South African President Jacob Zuma.
The company said issues relating to the black empowerment transaction and acquisition of ICT were still in progress.
Shares in the steelmaker have gained nearly 8 percent so far this year, outperforming a 3.5 percent rise in the Johannesburg's blue-chip Top-40 index.