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Despite cost and steel downturn, time is right for ArcelorMittal to enter India

ArcelorMittal is the largest steel producer in the world. In 2018, its total steel output was 92.5 million tonnes (mt), based on installed capacity of 112mt. It has a global market share of about 5% and it is the largest producer of steel in Europe, the Americas and Africa and is the fifth-largest steel producer in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region.

On Friday, the Supreme Court cleared the deck for ArcelorMittal to enter India by buying out a stressed steel mill with 10 mt of capacity. The Essar plant has cost them (ArcelorMittal has a 60:40 joint venture with Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Corp) 50,000 crore and a further 7469 crore to pay off the debt of stressed mills Uttam Galva and KSS Petron, in which LN Mittal held some equity. But more importantly, this acquisition has cost ArcelorMittal time. Almost 650 days have passed since ArcelorMittal showed interest in the Essar assets, and today, with the sale nearing conclusion, the steel cycle has turned and domestic demand for the metal has fallen.

Leading private sector steelmakers in India reported a 25-50% fall in operating profits in the September quarter. With global steel consumption flailing, too, ArcelorMittal reported a net loss of $539 million for the September quarter, hit by lower sales and sticky prices.

Credit ratings agencies expect the Essar acquisition to weigh down ArcelorMittal’s balance sheet with more debt. As of June 2019, ArcelorMittal reported net debt of $10.2 billion, which it has projected to reduce to $7 billion. However, the Essar acquisition will instead further increase debt by about $3 billion. Standard and Poor’s revised the outllook for ArcelorMittal to negative this October, citing a “a significant increase in ArcelorMittal’s leverage ratio by the end of 2019 owing to a combination of very weak steel markets, the anticipated acquisition of the Indian steelmaker Essar Steel, and the disappointing performance of the recently acquired loss-making Italian steelproducer Ilva.” Fitch Ratings also revised their outlook to negative citing a worsening global steel market, decreasing industrial production, weak automotive demand, trade tensions, and pressures from elevated raw material costs squeezing ArcelorMittal’s profit margins.

However, with a 10mt plant, ArcelorMittal will be a steelmaker to reckon with in India. Local analysts expect that a third steel producer, after Tata Steel Ltd and JSW Steel Ltd, with both financial heft and expertise will be good for the domestic market.

Essar steel has a 10 mt per annum mill in Hazira, Gujarat. The company is a fully-integrated flat steel manufacturer with ore beneficiation, pellet making, iron making, steel making, and downstream facilities, including cold rolling mill, galvanizing, pre-coated facility, steel processing facility, extra wide plate mill and a pipe mill. In its FY17 annual report, the firm had said that it was the only private steel mill in the country which was allowed to supply steel for warships, submarines, battle tanks and armoured vehicles.

In a past interaction, Atanu Mukherjee, president of global metals and energy consultant M.N. Dastur, had told Mint: “Traditionally, in a fragmented steel market like India, there are a lot of secondary producers. This is a problem because it doesn’t give you economies of scale or the pricing power, and doesn’t help cost structure. With concentration happening among 3-4 larger players and some niche players in the value-added segment supporting them, India will have a more mature steel market without creating monopolies. The steel concentration ratio is moving up faster here than in any other country, but that is good for India.”

Mittal had made several attempts to get his foot in the door in India, notably with projects planned in Odisha and Jharkhand, but neither took shape. Despite the current slowdown, India’s steel consumption growth is expected to be positive in the long-term.India currently has per-capita steel consumption of only 70kg a year, less than half the average of other developing nations.

The global steel market is going through a protectionist phase, with the US and Europe erecting trade barriers against cheap steel coming in from China and Asia. The global demand for steel is likely to increase by 0.5%-1% in 2019 and in 2020. However, this increase is not applicable to all regions. Demand will continue to be propelled by Asia (close to 2%), followed by the U.S., Brazil, and the Commonwealth of Independent States, while the slower European market weighs on global demand. It makes sense now, despite the cost, for ArcelorMittal to set up shop here.

 

Credits: www.livemint.com

With SC Verdict on Essar Steel, Some Sanity has Been Restored to India’s Insolvency Process

The Supreme Court has finally brought the curtain down on the Essar Steel bankruptcy case.

In what is being hailed as a landmark order, the apex court threw the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal ruling out of the window and ushered in a sense of clarity in the nascent insolvency and bankruptcy resolution process in India.

The apex court order decidedly established the right, nay the supremacy, of the Committee of Creditors (CoC) in deciding the distribution of money raised from the sale of assets of an insolvent company. In doing so, the apex court also ruled that the financial creditors have primacy over the rest in the repayment of money. This should close the door for any ambiguity in the entire insolvency resolution mechanism.

The order, thus, paves the way for ArcelorMittal’s take over of Essar Steel. While confirming the larger responsibility of CoC in the insolvency resolution exercise, the apex court made it abundantly clear that the adjudication authority – NCLAT, in this instance, cannot tinker with the CoC-approved resolution plan in an insolvency case.

The Essar Steel case is among the first set of 12 big defaulter cases that the banks had sought to resolve under a fiat from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2017. This specific case had since seen many twists and turns, leading up to last week’s verdict by the Supreme Court. ArcelorMittal and Numetal came into the scene in early 2018. They were, however, found to be ineligible.

Subsequently, they were given a fresh opportunity by the Supreme Court to pay off the NPAs (non-performing assets) of their related corporate entities before resubmitting their resolution plans for Essar Steel. The process took an unexpected angle when the promoters of Essar Steel challenged the very insolvency proceedings and offered the entire debt by offering to cough up Rs 54,389 crore.

This was way high when compared to ArcelorMittal’s offer of Rs 42,000 crore. But the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) put its foot down. That did not settle the matter, though. Then came the issue of distribution of proceeds among various claimants (financial, operational and other creditors).

What upset the financial creditors was the decision of NCLAT overruled CoC’s distribution plan and sought to insert a sense of parity in the distribution of money among financial and operational creditors. Predictably, financial creditors were forced to knock at the doors of Supreme Court. In a way, the apex court sort of made it clear that there could be no equal treatment of unequals. It laid much store by according equitable treatment to each creditor depending on the class to which it belongs – such as secured, unsecured, financial, operational and the like.

Significantly enough, the Supreme Court also indicated that there is nothing sacrosanct about the 330-day window for insolvency resolution. This should take the pressure off creditors who could otherwise be resigned to accept below-par resolution deal.

The overall clarity ushered in by the Supreme Court order should go a long way in quickening the insolvency resolution exercise in the Indian corporate world. And, it should do a world of good for the banking industry which has been pulled down under the weight of bloated stressed assets.

An early end to their stressed assets imbroglio could help its quick return to health. The conclusion of the Essar Steel imbroglio could prove a sharp warning to recalcitrant-promoters who cared less for financial discipline.

Two classical instances – one pertains to the recent past and another related a distant history – bear testimony to the muddled thinking and avoidable interpretation.

In both cases, the end result proved disaster. In the case of Stayzilla, a Chennai-based start-up, the promoter landed in prison when an operation creditor filed a criminal complaint for non-payment. Eventually, the company was dragged to NCLT under IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code).

Very many summers ago, Readymoney, a Chennai-based listed entity, met with closure when angry depositors turned their ire on promoters. An eminent person, a leading auditor, associated with the company was arrested in this instance.  The two companies just collapsed.

Set against this backdrop, the Supreme Court order on the primacy of secured creditors must redefine the business play in the country. This can happen if only the entire chain in whole canvass – including India’s law-enforcing agencies – is made to understand it.

 

Credits: www.thewire.in

Tata Steel and JSW welcome competition from ArcelorMittal after it buys Essar

New Delhi assures Tokyo that all factors will be considered before taking a decision

Japan has raised concerns over an on-going anti-dumping investigation by India on import of certain steel products from the country and has asked Indian authorities to evaluate all “relevant economic factors’’ before taking a decision.

The matter was taken up by Japan at the meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s Committee on Anti-Dumping on Wednesday.

“Japan raised concerns with an Indian investigation on coated and plated tin mill flat rolled steel products initiated last June, and asked that Indian authorities be sure to evaluate all relevant economic factors having a bearing on the state of the domestic industry,” a Geneva-based trade official told BusinessLine.

India should also keep in mind the competitive relationship between Japanese exporters and Indian producers of the like product and the discomfort that is likely to cause to the domestic industry in the normal course of events, Japan indicated in the meeting.

“At the meeting of the Committee on Anti-Dumping, India said the anti-dumping investigation on the specified steel import from Japan was ongoing, and that it will look at all relevant factors. It assured Japan that its concerns would be addressed,” the official said.

New Delhi has been trying to put in place restrictions such as safeguard duties and anti-dumping duties on steel imports, as its domestic market is flooded with imported steel products. The free trade agreements with Japan and South Korea have resulted in very low tariffs (zero or near-zero) on high-grade steel products, pushing up imports of such items. Moreover, increased protectionism across the world, has resulted in a drop in India’s exports of steel products.

India turned a net importer of steel in 2018-19, the first time in three years, with shipments rising from countries such as China, South Korea and Japan. Its finished steel imports increased 4.7 per cent to 7.84 million tonnes while steel exports fell 34 per cent to 6.36 million tonnes.

“Although India has been taking protectionist measures to check import of cheap steel, it has been in line with WTO stipulations and proper procedures have been followed so far,” a government official said.

The WTO allows a member-country to impose anti-dumping and safeguard duties on imports if it can be proved that the items are either being dumped in the domestic market at prices lower than what it is available at in the country of the seller or there has been a surge in imports of a particular commodity in a particular period of time. In both cases, the complainant also has to proved that imports have caused injury to the domestic producer and caused disruption in the market.

Credits: thehindubusinessline.com

Arcelor entry will energise India’s steel sector: Pradhan

KOLKATA: ArcelorMittal’s entry into India through its Rs 42,000-crore acquisition of Essar Steel should ‘energise’ the domestic market, benefiting consumers in one of the world’s fastest-expanding economies that is building infrastructure to underpin its growth ambitions.

“With ArcelorMittal entering India, we expect the domestic steel market to become more competitive, and bring in more innovation and stability,” steel minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Thursday on the sidelines of a conclave in New Delhi. “This will ultimately help consumers.”

ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest producer of the alloy, is entering India at a time when the sector is going through a lean phase, facing a demand slump. Other steelmakers shared Pradhan’s sentiments about ArcelorMittal’s entry into India.

“Competition is good; it will keep us on our toes,” said Sajjan Jindal, chairman of JSW Steel. Jindal said Indian steelmakers appear to have had a headstart in the local markets since they have been operating here for several years, with a good understanding of local needs.

 

Credits: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

JSW Steel cuts US capex by 60%

However, it will stay the course on its 15,000-crore India investment plan

JSW Steel has cut its capital expenditure plans in the US by 60 per cent to $400 million due to weak demand and a slowing economy.

However, the company has decided to go ahead with its 15,000-crore capex plan in India despite the sharp drop in demand amid liquidity concerns.

Last year, the company had plans to invest $500 million each in two of its steel plants at Baytown in Texas and Ohio to enhance capacity and improve operational efficiency.

Seshagiri Rao, Joint Managing Director, JSW Steel, told BusinessLine that the company had already invested $250 million in restarting production at Mingo Junction in Ohio in the first phase and similar amount was to be invested in the second phase which has been put off till the demand improves.

Similarly, he said in Baytown, the company had invested $150 million but has put off construction of a new electric-arc furnace with an investment of $350 million until market conditions improve.

The capacity utilisation at present in the US is very low and the company wants it to improve substantially before taking a call on incurring further capex, he said.

Tata Steel’s woes

Interestingly, the global aspirations of both the Indian steel majors — Tata Steel and JSW Steel — have gone haywire and become a drag on their financials.

Debt-laden Tata Steel’s efforts for long to divest both its struggling South-East Asian and European operations have failed.

Last month, Tata Steel said it called off plans to sell a majority stake in its South-East Asia steel business to China’s state-run HBIS Group as it was not able to get regulatory approvals.

Similarly, the regulatory authorities have rejected Tata Steel’s plan to merge its European business there with ThyssenKrupp. Now, the company is selling of these businesses in bits and pieces.

Bullish on India

Despite deferring global investments, JSW Steel is not holding back its 15,000 crore investment at Dolvi in Maharashtra and enhancing downstream production capacity.

“We are going ahead with the investments in India as they are in the last stage of completion and is expected to go on stream by end of this fiscal,” said Rao.

JSW Steel will be doubling its production capacity at its Dolvi unit to 10 million tonnes per annum and enhancing tinplate, colour coated, galvanised sheet and other value-added products capacity at different locations by the end of this fiscal.

However, Tata Steel, which has a debt of about 1 lakh crore, said it is cutting down on capex for this fiscal to 8,000 crore from 12,000 crore due to challenging market conditions.

Credits: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com

Steel firms’ profits may improve in H2: Icra

Kolkata: Domestic steel companies can expect improved profitability in the second half of the year with steel prices and demand estimated to pick up in and around the festive season driven by government spending in construction and infrastructure, ratings agency ICRANSE -0.79 % has said.

However, an overall slowdown in the economy and subsequent fall in GDP growth rate will leave an impact on the steel sector by slowing down its growth to around 5-6% in FY20 as against 7.9% in FY19.

 

Credits: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

Here is why the steel industry dreads RCEP

Steel companies, already reeling under a demand slump, will be against another stumbling block in the form of the proposed RCEP trade agreement.

Industry players fear that the RCEP, which stands for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, will make the domestic markets even more vulnerable to imports, especially from China.

The country, which is also part of RCEP, is sitting on a surplus of about 300 million tonnes of steel. And after facing sanctions and blocks in other major markets, including the US and Europe, China is looking at the Indian market, which despite the current slowdown, is still among the faster growing ones globally.

“Steel imports from countries with whom India has free trade agreements, jumped 71 percent year-on-year, in August.  It is even more alarming that the share of these FTA-partners in the overall imports increased to 77 percent in August this year, from 54 percent in the same month last year,” points out Jayant Acharya, Director (commercial & marketing), JSW Steel.

The industry fears that these imports, and the share of zero-duty segment, will further jump, if RCEP comes into effect.

“India’s one-sided trade with FTA-partners has particularly impacted the steel sector, which is extremely capital intensive and requires sustained performance to recover its investment and carry out expansion activities in-line with the growing demand,” said Acharya.

“The current slowdown along with elevated imports have made the circumstances very difficult for the steel sector. We welcome the proposed changes in Government’s policy to boost exports, but there is a lot of work-in-progress on trade-policy for keeping imports in-check,” he added.

The trade agreement

The RCEP, which may come into effect from November, will allow its 16 member countries to freely trade goods in each others markets without any tariff barriers. It includes 10 members of the ASEAN, and six free trade partners, including China, Japan and South Korea.

Japan and South Korea are already among the major importers. In some of the months of this year, more than half of the steel imports originated from these two countries. In April for instance, imports from Japan and South Korea made up for 57 percent of the monthly volume.

“With a free trade agreement, we may not benefit much, as these countries are much more technologically advanced than us, and can put up several kinds of non-tariff barriers,” pointed out a senior executive from the industry.

Slowing demand

The slowing demand in the domestic market has already seen production coming down. JSW Steel’s production was down 13 percent in August.

The company, along with peers like Tata Steel, also reported subdued numbers in the first quarter of the financial year. While JSW Steel’s net profit fell 57 percent in the June quarter, that of Tata Steel plummeted by nearly 65 percent.

The outlook for the rest of the year, under present circumstances, looks equally bleak. Earlier this month, India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra), lowered steel sector’s demand growth to 4 percent, from the earlier expectation of 7 percent.

It revised the outlook for the steel sector to stable-to-negative from stable for the remaining part of the financial year.

Two of the industry’s biggest clients  – infrastructure and auto companies – are facing fresh challenges. While sale numbers of auto companies dropped the most in 20 years, in August, the order pipeline from the infrastructure sector has almost dried up.

Imports from RCEP countries will further squeeze the steelmakers.

Credits: https://www.moneycontrol.com

Slump in steel sector spreads to small, medium companies

A slowdown in India’s steel sector is spreading to medium and small enterprises, with several companies cutting production in response to lower demand.

Such units make up about one-half of India’s total steel production but higher iron ore prices and weak demand have forced many to trim output since August. In some cases, production has been halved.

The steel companies are facing the heat from the slowdown in one of their biggest clients, the automotive industry. Demand for real estate has also been falling in a slowing economy and a liquidity crunch.

“There are no buyers in the market today. Sales are not happening,” said R.K. Goyal, managing director, Kalyani Steel, a Pune-based producer of auto grade steel. The company, which has an installed capacity of 250,000 tonnes per year, has cut production by 25-40% in the last 15 days, Goyal said.

 

Ludhiana-based auto grade steel manufacturer Vardhman Special Steels plans to start cutting production from October, said vice chairman and managing director Sachit Jain. “We were lucky because we already had a scheduled plant shutdown,” Jain said. “The plant has restarted now. We will be producing less than what we anticipated, maybe we will cut by about 30% but I guess we will be cutting less than our competitors.”

An unprecedented slowdown has engulfed India’s automobile industry, the world’s fourth-largest, since July last year forcing automakers and their vendors to cut jobs. Passenger vehicle sales in India plunged 32% year-on-year in August, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam). It was the 10th straight monthly drop in passenger vehicle sales and the worst since Siam began compiling monthly sales data in 1997-98./

Steel prices fell below 40,000 per tonne in July, the first time since December 2017. Jefferies cited this to weak demand led by a slowdown in key sectors (automotives, real estate) and de-stocking by steel mills, pushing them to sell at an 8% discount to imports. In a report, the brokerage also found that inventory at steel mills are now at 14.6 million tonnes (45 days), much higher than the usual 20 days.

“We’ve reduced production over the last 2-3 months. Some people are doing maintenance shutdowns at plants even when it’s not needed. Salaries are being delayed by about 2 months after we started cutting production in July,” said P.V.S. Rao, president, Karnataka Sponge Iron Manufacturers Association, which represents 64 units that depend on iron ore supply from Karnataka.

Rao said that despite a weak market, iron ore prices of state-run NMDC and private miners have remained stubbornly high which is also one of the reasons several sponge iron producers have chosen to scale back production.

“We do about 10,000 tonnes a day of sponge iron production and we’ve reduced it by about 30% in the last two months,” he said.

Even large steelmakers are choosing to cut production.

In August, JSW Steel, the second largest private steelmaker, cut crude steel output by more than 13% from a year ago to 1.25 million tonnes (Mt). JSW attributed the drop in steel production to a planned shutdown at its Vijayanagar plant. In the June quarter, Steel Authority of India Ltd also saw its sales realisations fall despite stable volumes. Sail had to contend with higher raw material prices and rising expenses hurting margins.

Large producers likes JSW are banking on exports to meet their sales targets. To clear their inventories, Indian mills have exported aggressively in August, with exports rising 37% year-on-year, according to Jefferies.

In an interview with Bloomberg last Friday, Seshagiri Rao, Joint MD and Group CFO, JSW Steel, said the company expects to exceed its export target of 2.2 million to 2.4 million tons for the fiscal year as a response to the slowdown in the domestic sector. But small and medium companies, which traditionally supply to the domestic market, are left in the lurch.

Rao, who represents the sponge iron businesses in Karnataka, said that he expects more steel mills to decide by September on whether they should cut production.

 Credits: https://www.livemint.com

 

Subdued steel prices can keep upside capped for SAIL’s stock

An increase in steel offtake in the fourth quarter has seen Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) report notable revenue growth of 8.6% year-on-year. But that was not enough to hold up its stock as the results fell far short of consensus estimates. SAIL’s stock dipped 1% on Friday after its results were announced post-market hours on Thursday.

The highlight of the results has been better volume growth in Q4. Saleable steel sales totalled 4.133 million tonnes (mt) in the March quarter, increasing 10% over the same period last year. The company also increased its hot metal, crude steel and value-added production in the last quarter, a sign that domestic demand is fairly robust.

However, steel price realizations have dipped in the domestic market, squeezing Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) margins.

The margins were further hurt on account of the rise in iron ore prices due to a supply disruption in Brazilian and Australian mines. SAIL’s Ebitda margins shrank from 13.8% in Q4 FY18 to 12% in Q4 FY19.

To add to the pain, an increase in coking coal prices added to the net profit fall, which dropped 42.5% in Q4. Interestingly, profit for FY19 increased to ₹2,179 crore. In FY18, SAIL had reported a loss of ₹482 crore.

In FY20, the company’s management has guided a production target of 17mt.

Besides, analysts are also worried about its cash outlay. SAIL has outlined a plan of ₹4,000 crore capex in FY21. “We are concerned on cash commitments: 1) capex of INR40bn in FY20E; 2) INR12bn outflow on new pension scheme; and 3) INR 37bn debt repayment obligation. Besides, INR30bn annual interest cost is expected to constrain cash balance further. These are expected to account for bulk of EBITDA amidst a challenging operating environment besieged by weak prices,” said Edelweiss Securities Ltd in a note to clients on 31 May.

While steel demand is robust in India, analysts reckon that it may not translate into much higher realizations. Much depends on how iron prices pan out in the international markets. But as iron ore supply disruption is likely to be persistent, investors will have to watch steel prices a lot closely, too.

Credits: www.livemint.com

Brexit party plans ‘John Lewis-style’ rescue of British Steel

The Brexit party has announced its first policy beyond leaving the EU: saving British Steel by turning it into a “John Lewis-style” company part-owned by the workers.

The party’s chairman, Richard Tice, unveiled the policy on Tuesday in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, where 5,000 jobs are on the line after privately owned British Steel went into insolvency last month.

He proposed a “strategic national corporation, which will blend the best of private sector expertise and capital; long-term, patient state capital; as well as improving productivity through a John Lewis-style form of shared ownership for the workers”.

The idea seemed a hybrid of Conservative and Labour policy: while the Conservative government looks for a private buyer for British Steel, Jeremy Corbyn wants it to be nationalised.

Tice dismissed warnings from Gareth Stace, the director general of the trade body UK Steel, who said Brexit “will not improve the situation for the steel sector but it has the potential to cause a great deal of damage”.

Stace was an “establishment” figure, Tice claimed. “I’m afraid some of these industry lobby groups are part of the establishment and are simply wrong. What is most important to make British steel is not the tariffs, it’s the cost of business rates, it’s the cost of energy and it’s the emissions trading scheme.”

UK Steel has previously called on the government to tackle industrial electricity prices, which are twice those in France, as well as a reduction in UK business rates. According to Stace, these are “five to 10 times higher than elsewhere in the EU, perversely increasing costs for those that modernise and upgrade”.

Tice was accompanied in Scunthorpe by Simon Boyd, the managing director of Reidsteel, a structural steel company based in Dorset. He said EU regulations meant it was “easier for us to export to Mongolia than France”, drawing tuts of disapproval from the carefully vetted audience, who had each paid £2.50 to attend the press conference.

Boyd, who campaigned against the working time directive, said EU competition rules meant his firm lost a contract in Rotherham to a Portuguese firm, who benefited from significantly lower energy costs in Portugal and then came to Yorkshire and employed eastern European labourers.

Not everyone was convinced by the Brexit party’s proposal. Among those in the audience was Jim Crossman, a former chief engineer of British Steel, who went on to be chief executive of Caparo Merchant Bar (now Liberty Steel Scunthorpe), which makes steel bars.

“I’m a Brexit supporter but I am unsure they can bring this off,” he said. “The big worry I have is that while Rome is burning and the industry is reducing, the skills in the industry will leave because they are unsure if British Steel will survive … I don’t personally think there will be a private buyer who will buy the whole unit, including the blast furnaces, which need a lot of capital investment. They might strip out the better assets.”

The Brexit party polled 47% of the European parliamentary vote in North Lincolnshire, with Labour second (12.5%) and the Conservatives third (11.5%). It is contesting Thursday’s byelection in Peterborough and is beginning to develop a policy platform to fight a general election, should one be called before the UK leaves the EU.

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