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ArcelorMittal increases share buy-back programme by $1 billion

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FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on the roof of the ArcelorMittal steelworks headquarters in Ostrava
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By Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, said on Thursday it was increasing its share buyback programme by another $1 billion after reporting its strongest quarter in more than a decade.

The uplift brings the capital returns announced by the company since September 2020 to $6 billion. There is currently $1.8 billion outstanding on its buyback programme.

Arcelor said it expects global steel demand to grow by between 12% and 13% this year excluding China, where real demand has weakened. It now expects a slight contraction in Chinese steel demand in 2021, citing the country's real estate sector.

Shares were up 3.93% to 28.43 euros as of 09:55am CET.

Third-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), the figure most watched by the market, showed about a sixfold increase from the same period last year at $6.06 billion.

That was slightly below the average forecast of $6.15 billion returned by a company poll.

"Our third-quarter results were supported by the continuing strong price environment, resulting in the highest net income and lowest net debt since 2008," Chief Executive Aditya Mittal said in a statement.

It was the strongest quarter since 2008 and up 19.9% from the previous three-month period, the company added.

"This was on the back of strong steel price increases and steel spreads, offset by 9% lower volumes due to a combination of automotive order cancellations, shipment delays and production curtailments given higher energy prices," ING analyst Stijn Demeester wrote in a note.

The group said net debt declined to $3.9 billion, the lowest since 2006 and down from $5 billion at the end of the previous quarter.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss; Editing by David Goodman and Jan Harvey)