By Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korean steelmaker POSCO’s operating profit more than tripled to a record 9.2 trillion won ($7.62 billion), boosted by strong demand and higher prices of the construction raw material.

Global crude steel production rose 3.7% last year to 1.95 billion tonnes, World Steel Association data showed this month, despite an energy crunch that led to weaker output in top producer China.

POSCO’s consolidated operating margins in 2021 were 12.1%, up from 4.2% in 2020.

The company’s fourth-quarter consolidated profit was 2.37 trillion won, in line with estimates of 2.3 trillion won, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

For 2022, POSCO expects consolidated sales of 77.2 trillion won, compared with 76.3 trillion won in 2021. The company also forecast capital expenditure of 8.9 trillion won this year.

Meanwhile, the company’s shareholders earlier on Friday approved a plan to split off its steel operations and form a holding company called POSCO Holdings Inc.

The new holding company will wholly own the steel unit, which will remain unlisted, and oversee development of new businesses, such as battery materials and lithium.

POSCO shares closed up 2.9% after the shareholder meeting, while the wider market rose 1.9%.

($1=1,206.8600 won)

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Shounak Dasgupta)