Cliffs Natural Resources Inc CLF
Q3 2011 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 10/28/2011

Operator: Good morning. My name is Mimi, and I'll be your conference facilitator today. I would like to welcome everyone to Cliffs Natural Resources 2011 Third Quarter Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers' remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session.

At this time, I would like to introduce Steve Baisden, Vice President, Investor Relations and Communications. Mr. Baisden?

Steven R. Baisden - Vice President, IR & Communications: Thank you, Mimi. I would like to welcome everyone to this morning's call. Before we get started, let me remind you that certain comments made on today's call will include predicative statements that are intended to be made as forward-looking within the Safe Harbor protections of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although the Company believes that its forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially.

Important factors that could cause results to differ materially are set forth in reports on Forms 10-K and 10-Q and news releases filed with the SEC, which are available on our website.

Today's conference call is also available and being broadcast at At the conclusion of the call, it will be archived on the website and available for replay.

Joining me today are Cliffs' Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Carrabba; and Executive Vice President, Global Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Laurie Brlas.

At this time, I'll turn the call over to Joe for his initial remarks.

Joseph A. Carrabba - Chairman, President and CEO: Thanks, Steve, and thanks to everyone for joining us this morning. Last night, Cliffs reported the strongest quarter in the Company's history. Third quarter's results were driven by strong demand for our products throughout 2011. North American blast furnace utilization rates averaged 76% during the quarter, 5% higher than the prior year's comparable quarter average of 71%. Additionally the Platts index for iron ore pricing averaged $178 per ton during the quarter, 31% higher than 2010's average third quarter pricing. Both of these factors coupled with the additional sales from Bloom Lake's operations drove our exceptional third quarter results.

However, we do acknowledge the recent softening of iron ore spot prices. This is not entirely surprising given the immediate macroeconomic concerns over future growth rates in certain world economies and volatility in virtually all industrial commodities.

As many of you know since the end of the annual benchmark pricing mechanism, Cliffs has been moving sales agreement to more narrow pricing periods that are closer to the shipping date. We anticipate our industry will continue in this direction moving away from lagging pricing periods and towards those that are closer to shipping or landing dates. For Cliffs, while lower spot pricing will directly impact results given our exposure to the seaborne market, we expect to run a very profitable business at these iron ore spot prices.

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