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Inside This Issue......
The Battle Over Legacy Costs 1

Trade Crisis 2

Prices and Shipments 4

Raw Materials 5

Capacity/Technology 6

Worthy of Note 6
S teel Industry Update/162 December 2001

Locker Associates, 225 Broadway, NY NY 10007 Tel: 212-962-2980 Fax: 212-608-3077


Last week a major steel executive told Locker Associates that the recent mega-merger announcement "is the biggest move since Andrew Carnegie sold his mills to J.P. Morgan 100 years ago." That transaction setup an industry structure that wasn't really broken until the 1960's when imports and minimills took the offensive. In our opinion, this move will involve a massive restructuring that could encompass 30-40 percent of the nation's present steelmaking capacity. If done properly there will be a determined effort to rationalize assets, which means the more productive and profitable facilities will survive and the less efficient mills will be retired.

To be successfully accomplished this requires (a) focusing on detailed empirical data as a guide for decision-making, not fiefdom politics, (b) excellent plant managers who are empowered to make decisions and implement changes, and (c) superior labor-management relations that revolve around problem solving, not finger pointing, and recognize and respect the basic interests of both parties. If properly executed, this restructuring could go a long way toward repositioning the integrated mills, making them once again strong international competitors.

But two things must happen to make this mega-merger possible. First, the Bush Administration needs to impose sizeable 201 tariffs on imported products to give the industry some badly needed breathing room, especially with regard to prices. Second, the U.S. government needs to take over the legacy costs associated with post-retirement benefits, a gigantic burden that is literally strangling integrated mills. In our opinion, despite a vocal band of nay Sayers, the Bush Administration, with strong support from House and Senate Republicans, will implement both of these measures in the next few months. The reason why is abundantly clear to those who understand that politics, not economic theory, drives most leaders. The Republicans know they can't win the next congressional or presidential elections without support from key steel states, including Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Steel retirees currently number near 600,000 and their voting turnout is impressive.

Import relief, legacy cost takeover and a mega-merger among integrated producers will forever change the U.S. steel industry landscape. Most importantly, the United Steelworkers, a key player in this process, recently announced their full support for consolidation, making it clear they are "prepared to work with steel companies to find ways to reduce operating costs."


THE BATTLE OVER LEGACY COSTS

Table 1: Selected U.S. Steel Industry Data, September & Year-To-Date

(thousand tons)

Month of September

Year-to-Date




2001

2000

% Chg

2001

2000

% Chg

Raw Steel Production

8,263

8,830

-6.4%

76,841

85,658

-10.3%

Capacity Utilization

80.5

82.7

--

80.9

89.0

--

Mill Shipments

7,948

8,632

-7.9%

75,893

84,198

-9.9%

Exports

500

512

-2.4%

4,619

4,920

-6.1%

Imports

2,371

2,987

-20.6%

22,097

30,472

-27.5%

Apparent Steel Supply*

9,372

10,418

-10.0%

88,758

102,665

-13.5%

Imports as % of Supply*

20.5%

22.1%

--

19.7%

22.8%

--

Iron Ore Shipments (metric)

na

na

--

na

na

--

Average Spot Price** ($/ton)

317

334

-5.3%

316

359

-11.9%

Scrap Price+ ($/gross ton)

117

111

5.4%

105

123

-14.1%























Source: AISI, Purchasing Mag., & US Geo. Survey *Excludes semi-finished imports **Avg price of 8 carbon products +auto bundles
The 800 Pound Gorilla Sitting in the Room”: The issue of what to do about legacy costs -- the payment of retirees’ contractual pension and health benefits by financially strapped steel companies -- has become one of the major questions facing the industry and the government as the steel picture darkens. It is, in the words of one steel consulting executive, “the 800 pound gorilla” that has to be dealt with before the Big Steel consolidates and begins to recover. For the integrated companies, it is their biggest cost item, straining their profit margin in an environment of falling prices. But for the tens of thousands of steel worker retirees who have relied on the pension and health benefits for which they worked many years on the production line, it is the difference between sustenance and poverty.

In Congress, momentum appears to be building for some federal government funding of legacy costs. Two weeks ago, Rep. Peter Visclosky (D.-Ind.), a leading steel advocate, offered an amendment to a Defense Dept. appropriations bill for a three-year $2.4-billion government aid package to steel companies that need help to meet retiree health care costs. The amendment was withdrawn after a point of order was raised that declared it would have changed the law in a spending bill, but not after several representatives had spoken in favor of federal relief for legacy costs. One of them, Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.), the ranking minority member of the House Rules Committee, advocated that legacy costs be funded by the tariffs collected under the Section 201 trade remedy cases, if and when they are ordered by the President.

A day later, top executives from three integrated steel manufacturers -- Bethlehem, US Steel, and National -- met with Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R.) and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, and reportedly pressed their case for administration support and Congressional assistance for legacy cost relief.


Steel Industry Update (ISSN 1063-4339) published 10 times/year by Locker Associates, Inc. Subscriptions $395/yr; $725/two yrs; Multiple copy discounts available. Checks payable to Locker Associates in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank. Copyright © 2000 by Locker Associates Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form forbidden w/o permission. Some material in this Update is excerpted from American Metal Market (AMM), which is available by subscription by calling 800-247-8080. Locker Associates, 225 Bdwy, # 2625, NY NY 10007. E-Mail: lockerassociates@yahoo.com
The issue appears to cross bipartisan lines even in the face of vehement opposition by the minimills, which have generally not taken on these costs and see themselves as having an advantage in competition over the integrated mills. In a Dec. 6 letter to AMM, Thomas Danjczek, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, representing minimills, called federal aid for legacy costs “a corporate welfare program cloaked in the legitimacy of a government solution to the steel problem.” He accused those companies that have taken on legacy costs of having “mismanaged their businesses” by failing “to achieve competitive unit labor costs over many years.” Federal assistance for these legacy costs, he charged, will endanger other actions that need to be taken to bolster the steel industry (AMM 11/12, 11/30, 12/3, 12/6).
TRADE CRISIS
LTV Now in “Hot Idle” Status: A last-minute agreement has temporarily delayed a permanent shutdown of LTV’s steelmaking plants while the United Steelworkers and its political supporters seek a $250 million federal loan guarantee. The agreement with the union and LTV’s unsecured creditors was signed Dec. 7 by federal bankruptcy Judge William Bodoh in Youngstown, Ohio after LTV had asked to shut down its mills in Cleveland, Hennepin, Ill. and East Chicago, Ind. and sell off the company's assets. LTV, the nation's third-largest steel producer, also wants to turn off the gas at coke plants in Warren, Ohio, and Chicago, a move that would render them useless in the future.

The Dec. 7 agreement would require the company to keep its integrated steel facilities on "hot idle" status for nearly three months. The coke plants would be put on a slow coking cycle for three weeks while the loan is being pursued. Under the agreement, LTV must report to the judge on its progress in securing financing by Dec. 19. At that time Bodoh may decide whether the effort to save LTV can continue or if its assets should be idled and sold. The hearing on the company's petition to terminate the union's labor contract has also been stayed until Dec. 19, the USWA said in a statement. The majority of LTV employees would most likely be idled under the agreement. If the company shuts down permanently, all 7,500 workers would lose their jobs. The mills will remain at hot idle until Feb. 28 and that may be extended until March 15 depending upon whether a buyer can be found and the disposition of some anti-dumping cases before the International Trade Commission.

Leo Gerard, USWA president, said the union would step up pressure on Congress to win approval for a $250 million loan under the Emergency Steel Loan Guarantee Act. He accused the loan board of imposing regulations on the American steel industry that are tougher than the ones used to certify an Export-Import Bank financing of a new steel mill in China.

Earlier in the week, two Ohio Congressmen, Dennis Kucinich and Steve LaTourette told Judge Bodoh that legislation was nearing passage that could give LTV the cash it needs to keep its steel making operations going. They said a $250 million federally guaranteed loan would be ready in 10 days.



Table 2: U.S. Steelmakers Filing Bankruptcy, 1997-2001





Filing

Annual










Company
Date
Capacity

Segment

Union

Emp.
Status






















29. Sheffield…….……...

12/7/01

0.6

Steelmaking

USWA

610

Operating

28. Metals USA…..…….

11/15/01

--

Distribution

Several

4,700

Operating

27. Bethlehem Steel.…..

10/15/01

11.3

Steelmaking

USWA

13,000

Operating

26. GalvPro…………..…

8/10/01

--

Processing

Non-Union

60

Closed

25. Riverview Steel….…

8/7/01

--

Processing

USWA

60

Operating

24. Edgewater Steel...…

8/6/01

.04

Specialty

USWA

140

Closed

23. Excalibur……………

7/18/01

--

Processing

USWA

800

Operating

22. Precision Specialty..

7/16/01

--

Specialty

Non-Union

200

Operating

21. Freedom Forge.……

7/13/01

0.2

Specialty

USWA

1,120

Operating

20. Great Lakes Metals..

4/11/01

--

Processing

Non-Union

40

Closed

19. Republic Tech.....….

4/2/01

2.2

Steelmaking

USWA

4,600

Operating

18. Trico Steel................

3/23/01

2.2

Steelmaking

Non-Union

320

Closed

17. Am. Iron Reduction..

3/23/01

--

DRI

Non-Union

70

Closed

16. GS Industries.......…

2/7/01

2.0

Steelmaking

USWA

1,750

Operating

15. Heartland Steel....…

1/24/01

--

Processing

USWA

175

Operating

14. CSC Ltd...............….

1/12/01

0.4

Steelmaking

USWA

1,225

Closed

13. LTV Corp..............…

12/29/00

7.6

Steelmaking

USWA

18,000

Operating

12. Erie Forge & Steel…

12/22/00

0.1

Specialty

USWA

300

Operating

11. NWSW........…......…

12/20/00

2.4

Steelmaking

USWA

1,600

Closed

10. Wheeling-Pitt……….

11/16/00

2.2

Steelmaking

USWA

4,800

Operating

9. Vision Metals........…

11/13/00

--

Processing

USWA

610

Operating

8. J&L Structural……...

6/30/00

--

Processing

USWA

275

Operating

7. Gulf States Steel..…

7/1/99

1.1

Steelmaking

USWA

1,906

Closed

6. Qualitech Steel.....…

3/24/99

0.6

Steelmaking

Non-Union

350

Closed

5. Worldclass Proc...…

3/24/99

--

Processing

USWA

80

Emerged

4. Geneva Steel.......…

2/1/99

2.6

Steelmaking

USWA

2,600

Emerged

3. Laclede Steel.......…

7/30/01

11/30/98


1.0

Steelmaking

USWA

1,475

Closed Emerged

2. Acme Metals........…

9/29/98

1.2

Steelmaking

USWA

1,700

Operating

1. Al Tech Specialty.…

12/31/97

0.1

Specialty

USWA

790

Closed
Total...........................

37.8







63,356




Source: United Steelworkers of America (12/10/01) Note: Annual capacity in millions of net tons
The last-minute agreement on Dec. 7 came after weeks of frantic negotiations among the company’s creditors, the USWA, and the Emergency Loan Guarantee Board to hammer out an agreement to keep LTV mills in operation. Earlier, some steel sources were saying that a permanent closing of LTV, which would remove about 8% of the flat-rolled capacity from the U.S. market, would be a boon to the industry by cutting excess capacity and helping to raise prices. This point was sharply disputed by Gerard who blamed management incompetence and “confrontations” that cost it contracts with major customers. A permanent shutdown, he said, threatens “the livelihoods and health-care benefits of tens of thousands of steelworkers and steelworker retirees throughout the country, and could devastate the communities they live and work in.” In a side-note on the issue, LTV’s Chairman and CEO William H. Bricker, who had been criticized by USWA and local elected officials for not vigorously pursuing the goal of keeping the company running and saving its union jobs, resigned just days before the Dec. 7 agreement (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/7; Cleveland Plain Dealer 12/7; Hammond (Ind.) Times 12/6; Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune 12/7; WSJ 11/30; AMM 11/12, 11/26, 11/29, 12/4, 12/5, 12/7).
CR Tries Again for ITC Injury Rulings: For the third time in two years, cold rolled steel producers are seeking duty orders against foreign imports it alleges are being dumped into the United States. It has been greatly encouraged by a unanimous preliminary injury ruling by the ITC Nov. 13 against CR imports from 20 countries. A final injury vote is scheduled for 2002.

In its Nov. 13th finding, the ITC ruled that CR imports from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela caused or threatened material injury to domestic industry. The case was brought by Bethlehem, LTV, National, Nucor, SDI, US Steel, WCI and Weirton, who are seeking dumping margins of more than 300% and subsidy margins of more than 40%. The preliminary injury vote was hailed by Washington trade lawyer Roger Schagrin, who represents Weirton in the case, but was condemned as “preposterous” by David Phelps, president of the American Institute for International Steel, an organization representing steel importers (AMM 11/15).


Chapter 11 for Major Service Center: Metals USA, the leading consolidator of service centers in North America, filed for Chapter 11 protection last month, claiming that it has not been able to surmount the problems caused by “a troubled metals market, a recessionary manufacturing economy, and overall uncertainties in the marketplace.” Previously, it said, it had made several attempts to avoid bankruptcy by cutting costs, using its assets more productively and attempting to sell non-core assets, but these attempts proved fruitless. The Chapter 11 petition was necessary to gain the time to stabilize its finances and implement a strategic plan for its long-term viability.

Hard hit by the development were the creditors of MetalsUSA who are owed some $787.3 million. They include financial institutions whose long-term debts total $553.4 million and companies whose accounts payable run to $156 million. Heading the list of steelmakers holding the bag are: Nucor -- owed $8.8 million, Ipsco, National, and LTV -- owed between $5.1 and $5.7 million each, Chaparral -- owed $4.5 million, and AK -- owed $4.4 million (AMM 11/16, 11/20).


Geneva Shuts Down Again: Geneva Steel, out of bankruptcy less than a year, began a “temporary shutdown” of most of its operations last month, saying that it will restart when “market conditions sufficiently improve.” The Vineyard, Utah company has been beset by cash flow problems for several months. It shut down for more than a year in 1986 and 1987 and had gone into Chapter 11 for a year beginning in January 1999.

Geneva is the only U.S. integrated steel mill in the West, turning out more than 2 million tons of HR sheet, plate and pipe. However, the word on the West Coast is that despite the exit of Geneva from the market, a tightening of supplies or price increases in the company’s traditional products do not appear likely. The annual plate market in the 11 states west of the Rockies is between 800,000 and a million tons (AMM 11/19, 11/21).


Bush Surprises Wire Rod Mills: In an unexpected move, the Bush administration announced late last month that it was shifting import quotas on wire rod, raising import quotas for the European Union and lowering quotas for the former Soviet republics. The EU was expected to drop its previous challenge on wire rod quotas before the World Trade Organization as a result of the new policy. Domestic mills had complained at a recent midterm review that the quota was too high and the tariff too low to have any substantive meaning.

The Bush announcement did not mention Canada or Mexico. U.S. producers had asked at a recent trade remedy hearing that both countries, presently exempt from tariff-rate quotas under Nafta, be included in a revised trade remedy that would encompass imports from Nafta countries. In August, the ITC had ruled, in a 4-2 decision, that wire rod imports from the two countries were undermining the import relief program.

The announcement came despite the fact that the administration was under no obligation to act on a midterm review, leading to speculation that the administration was using the tariff-rate quotas as a trade off for votes on the fast-track legislation pending in Congress. A tough trade position in steel, it was felt, which is popular in key Midwestern states, could offset the unpopularity of the fast-track authority Bush is presently seeking (AMM 11/28, 11/29).
Timkin Benefits from Anti-Dumping Receipts: Timkin, the Canton, Ohio, company that turns out bearings and alloy and specialty steels, is slated to collect $31 million this month from anti-dumping duties collected by the government. Timkin is a major beneficiary of the new law that allows domestic companies injured by dumped and subsidized imports to receive the value of collected duties, instead of it going directly to the general treasury. The duties were collected on imports of tapered roller ball, ball and cylindrical bearings from 10 countries (AMM 12/7).
PRICES AND SHIPMENTS
Stainless: Prices of stainless CR sheet products, which had shown some upward movement over the summer, have been in a nosedive since September, falling by an average of 7.4%. Leading the fall has been grade 304 stainless sheet, which plummeted by 9.2% –- from $1,410 to $1,280/ton. Other drops included: grade 304L -- down 8.8% from $1,480 to $1,350/ton, grade 302 -- down 8.4% from $1,365 to $1,250/ton, grade
316L -- down 7.9% from $1,825 to $1,680/ton, grade 301 -- down 6.1% from $1,320 to $1,240/ton and grade 316 -- down 3.7% from $1,765 to $1,700/ton. One service center executive characterized it as the “downside of the cycle”. A steel investment analyst reported that there was “nothing out there that would support higher pricing in the current environment.” One unusual factor in the stainless picture is that the selling price of domestic stainless is about 12% lower than import prices. Foreign offerings in the first seven months of 2001 are down 41% from the same period last year.

A bright side of the stainless market is stainless bar, which went up by 1.5% over the past two months, although industry sources were cautioning that bar prices were still low and that the industry was not in good shape. Nevertheless, since September, grade 416 was up 2.9% -- from $2,040 to $2,100/ton, grade 17Cr4Ni increased by 2.2% -- from $2,700 to $2,760/ton, grade 303 went up by 0.9% -- from $2,270 to $2,290/ton and other grades went up in smaller amounts (AMM 11/12, 11/14, 11/20).


Plate: Ipsco, in a leading move last week, is attempting to raise prices on carbon plate and wide-coil products by $20/ton, effective with new orders for shipment after Jan. 1. Since the spring of 1999, plate prices have fallen sharply with carbon discrete plate now at about $270/ton. That’s more than $100/ton under what it was then, $60/ton less than what it was at this time last year and $10/ton less than what it was last month. With the price so low, “the mills have to try something,” said one service center source (AMM 12/3).
Sheet: After more than a year of falling prices on HR sheet, Nucor's Hickman mill announced a price hike of $10/ton effective with new orders in January and another $10/ton beginning in February. If conditions warranted, said Nucor, additional price increases could be expected on its CR and galvanized sheet products as well. Current HR coil currently sells for $220 to $240/ton, $100 less than last year at this time. A day after the Nucor announcement, Steel Dynamics also upped its prices by $20/ton for the first quarter of next year and raised the possibility of a boost on all its sheet products as well. Other mills, including US Steel, Bethlehem, AK and Ispat were reported to be studying Nucor’s action. One Midwest trader offered the prediction that the sheet market appears to be approaching an upward price movement (AMM 12/5, 12/6).


RAW MATERIALS
Japan Expects Decrease in Iron Ore Prices: The talks that set the stage for the annual iron-ore price negotiations between Japanese steelmakers and their Australian and Brazilian suppliers ended in Japan last month. Suppliers were left with little doubt that their Japanese customers were expecting a decrease in the price of ore next year. Nippon Steel, the lead negotiator, did not explicitly call for a drop in prices, but some of the smaller companies, like Kobe Steel and Nakayama, made it clear that this is exactly what they anticipate. The first round of actual price talks is scheduled to begin this month (AMM 11/15).
Scrap Prices Down Again: Auto factory bundles were down again this month, this time sagging by $4/metric ton. The drop sent the AMM Factory Bundles Index to $84.50/metric ton, nearly touching the low point of the 1990s three years ago, when it sank to $82.30. This month’s decline came on the heels of the $19/metric ton drop last month, the second biggest monthly dip this year (AMM 11/30).
Cliffs and Kobe Push New Iron Nugget Mill: Kobe of Japan and Cleveland-Cliffs have signed a memorandum of understanding with Mesabi Nugget LLC to build and operate a demonstration plant in northern Minnesota. The plant will use a new technology developed by Kobe to convert iron ore into nearly pure iron nuggets that could be used as a substitute for pig iron in the making of steel. Others participating in the project are SDI, Ferrometrics/Auburn, Ind., as well as the state of Minnesota and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Agency of Minnesota. The new technology could be an important step toward the future of the Mesabe Iron Range, which has been in the economic doldrums for some time (AMM 11/16).
Environmentalists Try to Stop New Shipbreaking Yards: Recent approval for a new shipbreaking yard at Vodarevy in the Indian district of Andhra Pradesh has infuriated people concerned about the environmental hazards and terrible labor conditions. The new yard was OK’d by the pollution control board in the state of Prakasam but strong efforts are now being pursued to stop the project from going forward. Environmentalists are currently appealing to the government to withhold another permit that is required before the Shore Area Developmental Authority can be

gin to set up the shipbreaking facility. Up until now, shipbreaking in India has only been done at the Alang and Soslyo yards in the state of Gujarat. Worldwide exposure of the life-threatening working conditions and the environmental hazards prompted the pollution control board to refuse to sanction further building of yards, a position they now seem to have reversed. Many in India charge that the board is simply overlooking the dangers to the detriment of workers and the environment (AMM 11/27).


Trucks Hauling WTC Scrap Are Monitored: After 250 tons of scrap metal hauled away from the World Trade Center cleanup was reportedly hijacked, a satellite surveillance system with more than a hundred Global Positioning System (GPS) devices has been installed on all trucks involved in the project. New York City is reported to be spending about $1,000 for each of the devices and another $150/hour for monitoring costs. The devices keep track of the trucks at all times and allow a dispatcher to shut down any truck at the touch of a button. The entire cost of the monitoring operation could run more than $100 million according to one source (AMM 11/29).
CAPACITY/TECHNOLOGY
Birmingham Sells Bar Mill to Brazilians: In the search to improve its financial position, Birmingham Steel has signed an agreement to sell its Cartersville, Ga., merchant bar plant to Ameristeel, a Tampa, Fla., minimill owned by Gerdau SA, of Rio de Janeiro. The Cartersville mill has an annual capacity of about 900,000 net tons of raw steel and a rolling mill with a capacity of about 700,000 tons. Birmingham has operated the Cartersville mill for five years, installing the rolling mill a year after it acquired the facility in 1996. After a number of cost overruns, a prolonged start-up and a change in management, it finally became a profitable enterprise only last year. Birmingham President John Correnti said the mill was being sold because it “continues to be hampered by prevailing market conditions in the steel industry” (AMM 11/16).
Nucor Set to Buy and Reopen Trico: Taking advantage of its position in the industry and the fact that many steel companies are no longer viable, Nucor announced late last month that it planned to acquire Trico, a mill that has been shut down since March. It will pay $120 million for the troubled mill and reopen the facility, adding more than 2 million tons to Nucor’s annual capacity of 13 million tons. LTV, currently on the verge of a shutdown itself, owns 50% of Trico, with Sumitomo and Corus Group owning 25% each (AMM 11/26).
US Steel to Upgrade Lorain Tubing Mill: US Steel’s plans for a $100 million upgrade of its pipe and tubing mill in Lorain, Ohio, moved ahead last month with its approval of an $86 million heat-treating facility at the plant. Construction of the in-line quench and temper facility on the No. 3 seamless mill began this month. It will heat-treat tubular products from 10 5/8 to 24 inches with a wall thickness of 1 1/2 inches at an annual capacity of 340,000 tons. Currently, the large pipe turned out at the Lorain mill has to be shipped to outside contractors in Oklahoma for quenching and tempering. The new facility will be designed to use residual heat remaining in the metal after hot rolling, a process that reduces energy consumption during heat-treating.

In another development around the mill, the city of Lorain has granted US Steel a 60% tax abatement for 10 years for its $100 million modernization project and has even offered to finance a portion of the project. US Steel, however, has pulled out of the financing plan, preferring to look into other methods of raising the necessary funds. One of them could be a $5 million low-cost loan and a $500,000 grant from the state of Ohio. A major factor in the tax abatement and financing offers is US Steel’s pledge to keep the existing work force at its current level of 550 employees when the modernization project is completed (AMM 11/27, 11/30).


WORTHY OF NOTE
AK Gets First Option to Buy Hanbo: Hanbo, the South Korean steelmaker, whose troubles dating back several years include not only financial woes but also charges of corruption and nepotism, seemed on the way to obtaining a buyer this month. The Korean Asset Management Corporation (Kamco) the South Korean government organization charged with finding a buyer, has approved the offer of AK Capital after a bidding auction Nov. 30. Details and arrangements have yet to be worked out but Kamco, which is also Hanbo’s biggest creditor, said that AK Capital had outbid another consortium, CHB Steel that included Cargill Inc., a Minneapolis financial and commodities firm that owns North Star Steel.

A previous effort to buy out Hanbro collapsed last year when Nabors Capital, a Texas-based group, agreed to put up the cash by Sept. 30 but then pulled out. The affair became an embarrassment to Kamco and the object of a Korean government investigation (AMM 11/12, 12/6).



AK Wins One But Its Legal Battles Go On: For several years, AK Steel has been locked in a series of court actions stemming from alleged air and water pollution in its Middletown, Ohio, mill and its two-year lockout of union workers at its Mansfield facility. Last month, it won a point in court when a U.S. District Judge ruled that the state of Ohio could not prosecute its air pollution claims against the company in a federal district court. In July, a state court had dismissed four other air pollution claims brought by the state. AK had threatened to consider closing the Middletown works if it were forced to pay the fines and penalties related to the environmental cases against it.

The company also was upset last month by the charges of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that AK was seeking to raise the level of free cyanide in the wastewater it was discharging from its Middletown mill into the Great Miami River. It contends that it is merely trying to correct a past mistake and that its proposal would not endanger human or animal life. The Ohio EPA, however, disputes the claim, saying that the additional chemical in the discharge would “result in a change from current water-quality conditions in the Great Miami River...”

In another legal action, AK has filed a suit against two city officials in Mansfield, charging that they improperly disclosed company tax information to the United Steelworkers of America. The suit accuses Sandra Converse, the city’s finance director, and Michael Schwamberger, the assistant finance director, of divulging the information in violation of Ohio laws and city ordinances (AMM 11/12, 11/13, 11/29).
US Steel Moves Into E-commerce Field: With the launching of two new websites last month, US Steel has moved aggressively into the use of e-commerce to sell its products online. Straightline Source, US Steel’s e-commerce division announced early in November that it was open for business in the greater Chicago and Atlanta areas making it now available in parts of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin, and in all of Georgia and Florida. The company is looking to operate the system nationwide next year. About 700 companies have made inquiries about it since a pilot project was kicked off in July, Straightline said, with 100 companies so far registered to do business online.

The website (www.straightline.com) offers a direct buying service for steel products to businesses that do not usually buy directly from steel manufacturers. Customers have the advantage of being able to get instant price quotations and place orders for a variety of products every day of the week, 24 hours a day.

Two weeks after the announcement about Straightline, US Steel unveiled a second website (www.ussautomotive.com) to directly service engineers and designers in the automobile industry with online information on steel research and development and technical information about current and emerging steel grades. Registered customers can now log into a secure area of the site for immediate information on their accounts with US Steel’s automotive group (AMM 11/13, 11/29).
LNM Signs Deal With Iscor: The LNM Group, Lakshmi Mittal’s company that owns the lion’s share of Ispat as well as Romania’s Sidex and Algeria’s Alfasid, has signed a “business assistance agreement” with Iscor of South Africa. Under the pact, LNM will give Iscor business, purchasing, technical and marketing aid, which they estimate will save Iscor some 350 million rand ($35.4 million) annually. For its part, Iscor will issue LNM 5% of the value of Iscor stock. If LNM is able to double the figure of Iscor savings, it will be issued 10% of the company’s stock. In addition, LNM will invest $75 million in Iscor shares over the next 15 months. Earlier, LNM signed another agreement with Iscor for options to buy 20.9% of Iscor from South Africa’s Industrial Development Corp after Iscor’s mining assets are separated from the steel division this month.

In other developments around Iscor, the National Union of Metalworkers reported that 8,000 of its members and supporters staged a large protest demonstration December 5 at the company’s Vanderbijlpark Works. The demonstration was in opposition to the fact that the union anticipates the loss of some 2,500 jobs when Iscor’s mining division is separated from the main company and the mining company is reorganized as the Kumba Resources Ltd. The Vanderbijlpark Works is also the site of a fire that killed two employees Nov. 13 when hot metal escaped through a tap hole as workers tried to plug it. The workers who were killed were in the controller’s cabin where the fire spread before it was contained (AMM 11/13, 11/15, 11/27, 12/6).


Supreme Court Turns Down USWA Nafta Appeal: The U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 26 turned down without comment an appeal by the United Steelworkers union to have the Nafta accord set aside as invalid because it is a treaty and therefore must be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. The Nafta agreement was approved by only a majority vote in each house of Congress.

By refusing to hear the appeal, the Court





Table 3: Selected Canadian Steel Industry Data, August & Year-To-Date

(thousand tons)

Month of August

Year-to-Date




2001

2000

% Chg

2001

2000

% Chg

Mill Shipments

1,370

1,436

-4.6%

10,618

11,212

-5.3%

Exports

423

453

-6.6%

3,410

3,872

-11.9%

Imports

559

801

-30.2%

4,107

6,142

-33.1%

Apparent Steel Supply

1,507

1,784

-15.5%

11,315

13,481

-16.1%

Imports as % of Supply

37.1

44.9

--

36.3

45.6

--

Source: CSPA 12/5/01




automatically let stand the ruling of lower courts that upheld the constitutionality of Nafta. If the Court had heard the case, it would have raised questions about the constitutionality of other trade pacts approved in the same way. “We believe the Court should have heard the case and we should have had a definite answer on wheth-er or not these things are treaties,” said USWA Legislative Director Bill Klinefelter (AMM 11/28).

NOTES ON STEEL TRACK EXHIBITS
Performance data is from monthly AISI sources. Spot Prices (except OCTG) are from Purchasing Magazine and are FOB Midwest, with no extras. Hot rolled sheet, 48 inch, temper rolled, ASTM 569; Cold Rolled Sheet, 48 inch, AISI 366; HD Galvanized Sheet, 120 inch AISI 525, G90; Coiled Plate, A36, 1/2x96x240 inch; Cold Finished Bar, SBQ 1018; Wide-Flange Beam, A36, W8, 18 lbs; Wire Rod, low carbon; Rebar, carbon, no. 6. OCTG spot prices are from Pipe Logix, FOB Houston for J55 8REUE Seamless Tube.
National Develops New High-Strength Steel: National Steel unveiled a new lower weight, high strength steel last month that it claims will not only reduce the overall weight of vehicles but will improve their safety. The steel was developed out of a research agreement between National Steel and NKK of Japan. It is just one of a number of technological advances to develop steel that is stronger and lighter to make it more competitive against other metals like aluminum that have been increasingly used in the auto industry (AMM 11/28).
NY Gov. Signs Card Check Recognition Bill: It isn’t often you’ll see a Republican politician even present at the annual convention of the AFL-CIO. But when he gets a standing ovation, that’s real

news. New York’s Gov. George Pataki received just such a reception at labor’s annual confab this month after he announced, via a piped-in-by-satellite speech, that he was signing, right then and there, legislation that would grant union recognition upon the presentation of valid cards signed by a majority of workers in a workplace -- without having to go through a subsequent election. Unions have come to fear the traditional NLRB and State LRB processes, which are usually long, drawn-out, and often allow employers to intimidate workers into voting against the union. Pataki’s latest position appears to be aimed at gaining support among union members, traditionally a Democratic constituency, in his re-election bid next year (NY Times 12/5).
















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