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ArcelorMittal sees modest pickup after wretched 2012

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, forecast improvement this year after a wretched 2012 in which sliding European demand and a Chinese slowdown pushed it into a loss.

The Luxembourg-based company said on Wednesday it expected steel shipments overall to be between 2 and 3 percent higher in 2013 than last year and margins per tonne to improve slightly over the course of the year due to a cost saving plan.

It said core profit (EBITDA) would be higher this year than the $7.08 billion of 2012, the second lowest level since the company was formed in 2006.

Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal said that 2012 had been a difficult year for steel, particularly in Europe, where demand had fallen by 8.8 percent, prompting a number of steps to reduce capacity and cut debt.

ArcelorMittal made a net loss of $3.73 billion for the year, largely the result of a $4.3 billion hit in the fourth quarter from writing down the value of its European steel business.

Investors already knew that ArcelorMittal had slashed its proposed dividend, sold assets and raised $4 billion in shares and convertibles to cut debt after losing its investment grade status.

Steel industry body Eurofer believes European steel demand is likely to fall further this year after a sharp drop in 2012, according to its quarterly survey published on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)