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Nucor Issues Third Quarter Guidance

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Steel maker, Nucor Corporation ((NUE - Free Report) ) announced its guidance for the third quarter 2011.

The steel manufacturer expects to earn 45 cents to 55 cents per share, including last-in, first-out charges of $29 million, or 6 cents per share. These results represent an approximate 40%-50% decrease from second quarter earnings of $0.94 per diluted share. However, projected third quarter earnings would still be a 540%-690% increase over third quarter 2010 earnings of $0.07 per diluted share.

Nucor stated that steel prices and metal margins, particularly for sheet mill products, have fallen since the end of the second quarter as a result of new domestic supply, increased imports and continued high raw material costs.

However, scrap prices have remained stable and demand from automotive, heavy equipment, energy and general manufacturing end-markets has increased. Nucor expects continued stability in order rates as raw material prices have been less volatile than in 2010, and customers continue to operate with minimal inventories.

Recently, Nucor released its financial results for the second quarter of 2011. Consolidated sales surged 22% to $5.11 billion due to an increase of 21% in average price per ton and a rise of 1% in shipments (to 5.6 million tons) to outside customers. However, results were slightly lower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $5.14 billion.

Pre-operating and start-up costs of new facilities were $31.4 million in the second quarter of 2011, compared with $43.4 million in the prior-year quarter. The decrease in costs was driven by the improved performance at the Special Bar Quality (SBQ) mill in Memphis, Tennessee and the wire rod products mill in Kingman, Arizona.

Steel mill shipments grew 6% to 4.8 million tons during the quarter. The average scrap and scrap substitute cost per ton accelerated 19% to $444.

Overall operating rates at steel mills were 71%, flat year over year. Utilization rates were negatively impacted by downtime caused by weather-related events and resulting power outages. Total energy cost increased approximately $3 per ton from the prior-year quarter, driven by inefficiencies caused by lower operating rates.

Nucor’s liquidity position remained strong at the end of the quarter. The company had cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments of $2.28 billion as of July 2, 2011. It has an untapped $1.3 billion revolving credit facility that will mature in November 2012. The company’s long-term debt remained unchanged at $4.28 billion as of the above date.

In June 2011, the board of directors declared a cash dividend of $0.3625 per share payable on August 11, 2011 to stockholders of record as of June 30, 2011.

In the quarter, Nucor had cashflows of $292.7 million from operations compared with an outflow of $293.8 million in the same quarter of the prior year. The improvement in cash flow was attributable to higher profit. Meanwhile, capital expenditure increased to $212.9 million from $163.2 million a year ago.

Nucor Corp. faces stiff competition from Commercial Metals Co. (CMC - Free Report) and United States Steel Corp. (X - Free Report) . We currently provide a long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock. The company has a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold).

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