“We delivered another solid quarter and kept our operational performance strong. Our stainless steel deliveries rose by 12% in line with the seasonal pattern and adjusted EBITDA increased to EUR 204 million. I am proud that Outokumpu is now able to create value also in more challenging market conditions.
Distributor de-stocking continued in the first quarter in both Americas and Europe, which impacted our delivery volumes negatively. We have already seen replenishment in some parts of Europe, and de-stocking seems to be coming to an end also in the US.
We have succeeded in keeping our costs under control, and now both energy price volatility and inflation seem to be slowing down. Salary negotiations in our main locations have also been concluded with a reasonable outcome. Amidst weakening market conditions, our teams have been very efficient in raw material management, and we have been able to take advantage of the favorable situation in the raw material market.
Our business delivered strong results. In business area Europe, stainless steel deliveries increased by 15% and adjusted EBITDA reached EUR 122 million. Business area Americas achieved a solid result with increasing volumes, and continuing good performance over the past few years proves Americas’ sustainable ability to generate profits.
In business area Ferrochrome, adjusted EBITDA reached EUR 16 million, and was slightly better than in the previous quarter. Optimization of ferrochrome production continued throughout the first quarter and capacity utilization was slightly more than half. As energy prices have recently declined from the exceptionally high levels, we have now ramped up our ferrochrome production to a more normal level.
Once again, we took remarkable steps in strengthening our sustainability leadership in the industry. We also announced our plans to explore the decarbonization of Outokumpu’s stainless steel manufacturing operations with the emerging nuclear technology of small modular reactors. We are proudly on the frontline with Fortum and playing a key role in ensuring energy efficiency, emission reduction, and competitiveness in Finland.
Overall, our CO2 emission reduction continues in line with our approved 1.5 °C Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) target. We have maintained our recycled material content at the record level of 94% also in the first quarter, and this is an important measure to keep our direct emissions at the lowest level of the stainless steel industry.
At the turn of the quarter, we announced an agreement to divest the remaining Long Products operations in Degerfors and Storfors, Sweden, to Cogne Acciai Speciali. I am happy that we are finalizing the divestment of our non-core Long Products business. Outokumpu will now focus on its core business.
As we have previously stated, we have a strong focus on shareholder returns. Not only did we complete our first-ever share buyback program, but also our Annual General Meeting approved the payment of a base dividend of EUR 0.25 per share plus an extra dividend of EUR 0.10 per share, totaling EUR 0.35. The dividend was paid in April. I am pleased to say that we have returned over EUR 250 million of capital to our shareholders, while we have kept our balance sheet the strongest in the industry."