SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) — POSCO, the world’s fifth-biggest steelmaker by output, said Friday its third-quarter net profit rose 3.5 percent from a year earlier on improving sales despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Net profit for the three months ending in September rose to 514 billion won (US$450 million) from 496.8 billion won in the same period of last year, the company said in a statement.

“Increased sales of automotive steel and other high-end cold-rolled steel products helped the quarterly results,” the statement said.

The positive net result is due to a base effect in which a one-off loss from an affiliate was reflected in the third-quarter bottom line last year, but no such loss was factored in this year’s third-quarter earnings, a company spokesman said over the phone.

Higher iron ore prices were offset by lower coal prices and the companywide drastic cost-cutting efforts also helped improve profitability in the third quarter, it said.

But operating profit fell 36 percent to 666.7 billion won in the third quarter from 1.03 trillion won a year earlier. Sales also declined 11 percent to 14.26 trillion won from 15.99 trillion won during the same period.

“The third-quarter operating profit plunged as the company couldn’t pass most of the increased raw materials costs onto customers,” the spokesman said.

 From January to September, net profit almost halved to 1.05 trillion won from 1.96 trillion won in the year-ago period.

Operating profit declined 54 percent to 1.54 trillion won in the first nine months from 3.31 trillion won a year ago. Sales fell 12 percent to 42.52 trillion won from 48.32 trillion won during the same period.