VIENNA, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine beat third-quarter net profit forecasts on Thursday helped by rising prices and strong demand from the automotive industry. Net profit rose to 167 million euros ($205 million) from 110.2 million last year, just topping the 163 million expected by analysts in a Reuters poll, the steelmaker said on Thursday. Revenue rose 17.3 percent to 3.16 billion euros, also slightly above expectations. „This confirms the expectation of substantial year-over-year growth in revenue and earnings that was expressed as early as at the start of the business year,“ Chief Executive Wolfgang Eder said in a statement. Voestalpine, which supplies the automotive industry with finished parts, said its sites in the United States continued to benefit from strong demand from European carmakers‘ local plants. However, uncertainty about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is increasingly putting a damper on investments, not just in the U.S. but also in all of North America, Voestalpine said. Voestalpine has 69 sites and around 3,000 employees in the NAFTA region, where it generates annual revenue of around 1.3 billion euros. „From the vantage point of Voestalpine, growth in the North American market during the first three quarters of 2017/18 was uneven,“ it said. The Linz-based group has said it expects U.S. tax changes to boost net profit by an upper single-digit euro amount in its 2018/19 business year. ($1 = 0.8149 euros)

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