Fitch’s in latest Sector Outlook said that improving China was quick to strongly support its domestic economy in response to the downturn triggered by worldwide lockdowns. Fitch forecasts steel output in China at an all-time high of 980 million tonnes in 2020 and 2021, up by 72 million tonne from 2019 due to demand from infrastructure and construction. Fitch said “In the rest of the world, economic stimulus measures were more moderate and steel production lower by more than 100mt for an estimated output of 745 million tonne in 2020. We expect activity levels to reach pre-pandemic levels towards end-2022 outside of China, with forecast output of 815 million tonne in 2021. The approval and deployment of vaccines against COVID-19 in Europe and North America, where the pandemic continues to disrupt society and many steel companies have been challenged by high cost bases and overcapacity, should reduce downside risks from the demand forecast. A global recovery in key end-markets (such as automotive, manufacturing, construction and infrastructure) and some consolidation in major steel markets will increase capacity utilisation and support margins in 2021, leading to Fitch’s view of an improving outlook.”
Rating Outlook: Stable The portfolio includes six issuers on Negative Outlook and three on Positive Outlook. Earnings and cash flow generation for those entities as per 2020 interim results have been better or in line with our rating forecasts. Stabilisation of Negative Outlooks is dependent on management teams prioritising debt reduction over capex and dividends, but a qualitative assessment indicates that potential negative and positive rating actions could be balanced.