By Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -ArcelorMittal, the world’s second largest steelmaker, said it had a “good growth” in the beginning of the year as it reported higher than expected first-quarter earnings.

ArcelorMittal said on Thursday global steel demand, excluding China, should grow in 2023 between 2% and 3%, and maintained its expectation that its own shipments will increase by around 5% this year.

The Luxembourg-based company said on Thursday first-quarter core profit (EBITDA), the figure most watched by the market, was $1.82 billion, much lower then the year-ago figure of $5.08 billion but higher than the average forecast in a company poll of $1.64 billion.

ArcelorMittal said it had benefited from a gradual recovery in steel demand, resulting in apparent steel consumption growth and rebound in steel spreads as well as better mining performance.

“The first quarter has unfolded as we expected. Geopolitical and economic uncertainty remains, but ArcelorMittal continues to demonstrate its ability to perform in all market conditions which bodes well for the remainder of this year,” Aditya Mittal, ArcelorMittal’s CEO said in a statement.

The company said it would pay dividends of $0.44 per share in two installments in June and December, and said it would buy back up to 85 million shares through 2025.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Bart Meijer)