By Robb M. Stewart 

MELBOURNE, Australia--Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG.AU) held to its full-year target for iron-ore shipments despite a dip in quarterly movements of the steelmaking commodity.

Demand for iron ore and steel remained strong in the three months through March, driven by ongoing construction and infrastructure activity in China, the Australian company said Thursday.

It said customers had continued to bid-up the price of higher-grade iron ore to offset the impact of rising coking-coal prices, restrictions on steel-mill production and to take advantage of high steel margins. China is the world's biggest consumer of iron ore.

For its fiscal third quarter, Fortescue said it shipped 39.6 million metric tons of ore, a 6.1% fall quarter-over-quarter and a 5.7% decline on the same period last year.

Cash production costs for the latest quarter were 12% lower than a year earlier, although 4.1% higher than in the December-ended quarter due to the impact of wet weather on production and shipments, it said.

The company, the world's No. 4 exporter of iron ore, said it continued to expect ore shipments of between 165 million and 170 million tons for the full year.

Fortescue and peers including BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP.AU) and Rio Tinto PLC (RIO.LN) have benefited from a rebound in iron-ore prices over recent months on the back of a recovery in China's steel market. The improvement has given Fortescue room to focus on cutting production costs and repaying borrowings built up in a decadelong expansion.

During the quarter, Fortescue's gross debt was reduced by a further US$1 billion to US$4.3 billion, including cash reserves of US$1.5 billion.


Write to Robb M. Stewart at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 12, 2017 20:05 ET (00:05 GMT)

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