While BlueScope's before-tax earnings fell more than 60 per cent compared to the same time last year, CEO Mark Vassella said it could have been a whole lot worse.
On Monday, the Port Kembla steelmaker recorded a $302 million before-tax profit for the first half of the financial year - down $547 million on the same time last year.
The Australian Steel Products division - which includes Port Kembla - was down 60 per cent year-on-year at $127.9 million.
Mr Vassella said the belt-tightening that went on during the 2015 steel crisis has been the difference between now being in the black or the red.
READ MORE: Check out the Mercury's story of steel
"If you think about the cost-out programs we've been through in the Illawarra where we took out $300 million, if you just did some very simple maths, that $300 million would have been off our bottom line in the Illawarra, where we made $128 million," Mr Vassella said.
"We could have been in a situation at this point in the cycle, prior to the business transformation, where we were actually making losses."
The BlueScope boss said the fall in revenue was not due to a drop in demand but shrinking margins between the cost of raw materials and the finished steel price - known as spreads.
"We signalled to the market a year ago that steel pricing was going to come off at a faster rate than iron ore and coal," he said.
"We've seen that come off. We had forecast it but we actually did better than we forecasted last August.
"The actual levels of demand, particularly in Australia, have actually been pretty good. It's actually been a margin issue not a volume issue."
In terms of those spreads, Mr Vassella said the steelmaker was forecasting them to be much the same in the back end of this financial year as well, resulting in a similar second-half financial result.
"Having said that, even though we're at the bottom of the cycle from a spread point of view, the business still made $300 million as global business and $128 million at Port Kembla," he said.
The company is caught up in a price-fixing court case, brought on by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Mr Vassella admitted he'd "rather it wasn't there" and said there were "resources and time that are spent managing it"