United States Steel Corp. reported this week that it lost $1.5 billion in 2015, including $999 million in the fourth quarter alone.
In its quarterly report on company performance, U.S. Steel President and Chief Executive Officer Mario Longhi said in announcing the results that the company is cutting costs and hoping to turn a profit in 2016, but that the company last year couldn't "overcome some of the worst market and business conditions we have seen."
The company — which owns both the Minntac taconite mining and processing operations in Mountain Iron and the Keetac operation in Keewatin, and is part owner of Hibbing Taconite — has blamed an influx of cheap foreign steel into the U.S. for lagging sales. While steel purchases have remained steady in the country, nearly one third of the steel sold at times last year was from overseas, and much of it was unfairly "dumped" into the U.S. at below cost.
"We faced significant price and volume headwinds, particularly in the second half of the year," said CFO Dave Burritt, in a conference call with industry analysts Wednesday. "High levels of imports had a significant impact on both price and volume" of steel sold.
"We don't know how long the industry recession will last," Burritt said, but added the company will be ready to take advantage of any upturn when it occurs.
That decline in demand, as steel prices have fallen, has led to a big drop in the demand for the Minnesota taconite iron ore used to make steel. Minntac was partially closed for weeks last year and Keetac has been shut down since March, with more than 400 people out of work and still no word when the plant might reopen.
Several of the company's steel mills also have closed, some permanently.
"We are facing significant headwinds and uncertainty in many of the markets we serve but remain focused on continuing to improve our cost structure, developing differentiated solutions for our customers and creating more reliable and agile operating capabilities," Longhi said, adding that he was hopeful that trade complaints filed against China and other countries will lead to greater relief than preliminary rulings in the cases have indicated.
Company officials declined during their report Wednesday to discuss details of their labor agreement with the United Steelworkers union. Results of a union vote on that contract are expected Monday.
U.S. Steel's stock sat at $6.70 Thursday, down from about $20 heading into 2015 and nearly $62 in 2011.