May 4, 2020 / 11:09 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-James Hardie lowers outlook, suspends dividends to rein in costs amid coronavirus outbreak

May 5 (Reuters) - James Hardie Industries on Tuesday cut the lower end of its 2020 outlook and implemented a slew of cost-cutting measures to weather the hit from closures of manufacturing plants due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

The world’s largest fibre cement maker’s move comes as companies across the globe cut spending to hold onto balance sheet strength, as restrictions to control the pandemic sap global economic growth and hit corporate earnings.

The Australian-listed firm expects its full-year net operating profit after tax at between $350 million and $355 million, down from a previously guided range of $350 million to $370 million.

James Hardie also suspended all dividend payouts indefinitely, implemented an immediate hiring freeze and said it would reduce global headcount by about 375 employees.

The company will close some manufacturing plants in the United States, Australia and Germany and plans to wind up all operations in New Zealand.

Furthermore, the company slashed capital expenditure for 2021 to between $80 million and $95 million, a sharp pull-back from its three-year annual capex average of about $240 million.

As recently as February, James Hardie had raised the lower end of its outlook from $340 million after a jump in third quarter profits, benefiting from a recovery in the U.S. housing market.

The company also warned of a $90 million impairment charge in its fourth quarter results, which are set to be announced on May 19. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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