Corus has announced its first pre-tax profit since it was formed in 1999.

The Anglo-Dutch steel maker exceeded analysts’ expectations by announcing a pre-tax profit of £163m for the first six months of the year, compared with an £89m loss in the same period last year.

The turnaround was driven by demand for steel in China and a general but slow economic recovery in most developed countries. The outlook for the industry has been much improved over the past year, as prices have risen by 50-100% on many grades of steel.

Philippe Varin, the chief executive of Corus, has pledged to add £680m to the group’s bottom line by 2006. He said that Corus would “continue to sharpen its commercial focus, to refinance bonds maturing between 2006 and 2008 and to dispose of our remaining non-core assets”, in order to achieve its financial targets.

Varin said he expected further growth in profit in the second half of the year.

The group was formed five years ago when British Steel and Dutch rival Hoogovens merged.