* CEO sees EU duties taking effect towards the summer
* Voestalpine to expand cost cuts by 100 mln euros
* Confirms forecast for lower year profit (Recasts, adds CEO comments, background)
By Kirsti Knolle
VIENNA, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Austria’s Voestalpine expects duties on cheap imports to take the pressure off Europe’s steel industry this year following its worst downturn in about a decade.
European steel companies are struggling to cope with sharp price falls and growing overcapacity as China and Russia are accused of exporting massive quantities at artificially low prices, a practice referred to as dumping.
The European Union intends to impose duties on imports of cold-rolled flat steel from both countries.
“Structural problems in Europe have to be overcome soon to protect the steel industry,” Voestalpine Chief Executive Wolfgang Eder said on Wednesday, adding that he expected European anti-dumping measures to take effect in the course of the first half of 2016, “particularly towards the summer”.
In response to a difficult market, Voestalpine plans to expand its cost-cutting programme for 2016/2017 by 100 million, to 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion).
The additional savings will mainly be derived from its metal forming and steel businesses, Eder said.
The steel unit is Voestalpine’s largest division, contributing around one third to group revenue. It saw third-quarter sales fall 10 percent versus the previous quarter, following a decrease on a similar scale in the prior period.
The Linz-based company is aiming to become less dependent on traditional steel markets by raising its production of finished parts for the aerospace, rail and automotive industries. The autos sector alone generates around 30 percent of group sales.
The emissions-cheating scandal at Europe’s leading carmaker Volkswagen has had no effect so far on orders, Voestalpine’s CEO Eder said.
“Everything is running smoothly as in the years before the scandal,” he told a conference call.
For the full year, Voestalpine stuck to its earlier guidance that it expects core and operating profit to come in below last year’s levels, after third-quarter earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell short of analysts’ forecasts.
The company’s shares were up 1 percent at 23.03 euros at 1327 GMT, in line with a positive market trend.
Shares in the firm have fallen around 30 percent over the past 12 months but have outperformed those of rivals Arcelor Mittal and United States Steel which have lost nearly 70 percent. ($1 = 0.8857 euros) (Editing by Keith Weir)