FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German industrial group ThyssenKrupp posted better than expected quarterly operating profit as it reined in losses at its steel mill in Brazil, suggesting turnaround efforts are starting to bear fruit.
Adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) for ThyssenKrupp's fiscal first quarter through December rose 131 percent to 247 million euros ($337.6 million), beating the 213 million euros average analyst estimate in a Reuters poll.
Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger has been struggling to return ThyssenKrupp to profit after a foray into the Americas caused the company to rack up debts and post three straight years of losses.
Late last year, he struck a deal to sell half of the Steel Americas business - a steel processing plant in Alabama - to ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel, which still left ThyssenKrupp saddled with the loss-making mill in Brazil.
The mill's quarterly EBIT loss shrank to 17 million euros from 122 million a year earlier thanks to cost cuts, higher capacity utilisation and positive currency effects.
Hiesinger was also forced to ask shareholders for cash late last year to bolster ThyssenKrupp's finances, which helped cut net debt to 4.5 billion euros at the end of December from 5 billion three months earlier.
ThyssenKrupp affirmed its full-year outlook, saying it expected adjusted EBIT for the 12 months through September to jump to about 1 billion euros from 599 million a year earlier, excluding any impact from disposals.
($1 = 0.7317 euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Christoph Steitz and Elizabeth Piper)