HAMBURG (dpa-AFX) - Copper group Aurubis is facing a three-digit million loss as a result of what is likely to be extensive metal theft. As a result, the company on Thursday evening canceled its profit outlook for fiscal year 2022/23, which runs until the end of September. Steelmaker Salzgitter, which holds just under 30 percent of Aurubis, also suspended its annual forecast. Shares in both companies came under heavy pressure on Friday.

In the index of medium-sized stocks, the MDax, Aurubis shares slumped to 62.50 euros. They had last cost less at the beginning of November 2022. Later in the morning, the shares were still down 14 percent at 65.50 euros. The share price for 2023 is therefore also down by around 14 percent. In the small cap index SDax, Salzgitter shares were down 5.7 percent at 25.66 euros.

According to a statement on Thursday evening, Aurubis found "significant deviations from the target inventory during the regular review of metal inventories, as well as deviations in special samples of certain deliveries of input materials in the recycling area." This is likely to be the result of further criminal activity - beyond that disclosed in the June 2023 release. The state criminal investigation office has been called in, he said.

The extent of the damage is still uncertain, and an extraordinary inventory is underway. The results are expected at the end of September. However, a loss in the low, three-digit million euro range is within the bounds of possibility. The operating pre-tax profit of 450 to 550 million euros previously targeted for the current fiscal year may therefore not be achieved.

After the new problems at its shareholding became known, the Salzgitter steel group also withdrew its earnings forecast for the current year on Friday. Previously, the management led by Group CEO Gunnar Groebler had held out the prospect of a significant decline in pre-tax profit to between 300 and 400 million euros in 2023 due to falling steel prices and lower demand. In the previous year, the Group achieved earnings of 1.25 billion euros.

It was only in June that it became known that a gang of thieves had allegedly stolen precious metal-bearing intermediate products from Aurubis over a period of years. The public prosecutor's office was able to obtain arrest warrants of more than 20 million euros, whereby the amount of the damage incurred by Aurubis was still being determined, it was said at the time. As a company spokeswoman told the news agency Bloomberg, the cases are probably not connected, but it is not yet completely clear.

Accordingly, in the current case, individual suppliers of recycled materials are likely to have manipulated details about the delivery of goods. Employees of the sample and analysis department had then apparently helped to conceal this. However, it was then discovered during the production process that certain quantities of metal were missing.

However, the financial damage has no impact on Aurubis' expansion plans, it was added. As has been known for some time, the Hamburg-based company plans to invest around 1.1 billion euros in the USA, Bulgaria and Germany by 2026. The largest profit contribution of the current growth projects is then to be made by the recycling plant in Richmond (USA), where production is to start later in 2024. Scrap metal recycling is booming in the USA.

And battery recycling, which is becoming increasingly important in times of electromobility, is also moving into focus at Aurubis. The review is underway. However, a decision will probably only be made in the medium term./mis/nas/jha/