Fortescue’s Third-Quarter Iron Ore Shipments Miss Estimates

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., Australia’s third-biggest iron ore exporter, said its third-quarter shipments of the steelmaking raw material rose 61 percent, missing analyst estimates.

Exports climbed to 19.4 million metric tons in the three months ended March 31, from 12 million tons a year earlier, the Perth-based company said today in a statement. That compares with the median estimate of 20 million tons from three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“Market conditions in China remain strong during the March 2013 quarter supporting Fortescue’s confidence in the development of the economy now and into the future,” Fortescue said in the statement. “Despite steel inventories being at seasonal high levels, current daily production of steel in China of more than two million tons per day is matching demand.”

BHP Billiton Ltd., the third-biggest iron-ore shipper, earlier this week missed analyst estimates after bad weather in Australia’s Pilbara region, where Fortescue also operates, hurt output. Fortescue is seeking to sell port and rail assets to cut debt, as the company continues with a plan to grow export capacity to 155 million tons annually by the end of 2013.

Fortescue declined 7.8 percent to A$3.43 at the close of trading in Sydney. Atlas Iron Ltd., a Perth-based producer, fell 9.9 percent.

Stake Sales

Talks to sell stakes in Fortescue’s port and rail infrastructure were progressing “as expected” with selected parties and may conclude by the end of June, Chief Financial Officer Stephen Pearce said on a call with reporters.

The minority stakes in the assets are valued at as much as $4 billion, according to CIMB Securities (Australia) Ltd.

Equity and commodity markets tumbled this week after China, the biggest metals user, reported that economic growth unexpectedly lost momentum last quarter.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. last month cut its estimate for iron-ore prices this year on expectations demand will moderate and steel production will slow in China, the world’s largest buyer. Iron ore may average $139 a ton, compared with a previous estimate of $144, analysts Christian Lelong and Jeffrey Currie wrote in the report.

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