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  • Tata Steel to cut 400 jobs in UKs South Wales
    Tata Steel said on Tuesday it will cut about 400 jobs at its Port Talbot plant in South Wales, around 10 percent of the workforce, as it looks to reduce costs in order to compete more strongly in the EU's manufacturing industry.Dealing a blow to the UK government's pledge to support British manufacturing jobs and diversify the economic base, Tata Steel Europe's chief executive, Karl Koehler, said in a statement the measures were "vital if we are to build a competitive future for our Strip Products business in the UK".Koehler added that steel demand and prices were likely to be under pressure for some years.Producing steel profitably in the UK has become increasingly difficult given shrinking demand plus higher energy, labour and logistics costs compared even with mainland Europe - itself struggling to compete with Asia and the United States.Under the company's new management, Tata Steel has intensified cost cuts and focused on high-margin products to improve performance in Europe, its main market, where demand is down some 25 percent since the financial crisis.Last year, Tata, Europe's number two steel producer, said it could cut around 500 jobs at sites in northern England, primarily Scunthorpe, under plans to restructure its construction and engineering supplies business."We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the company to discuss our concerns about manning levels and reiterate our opposition to any compulsory redundancies," Roy Rickhuss, chair of the UK trade unions' steel committee, said in a statement.European steel prices are currently at around 4-year lows and prospects are dim, given a global surplus fed in large part by top producer China, where steel exports have risen 41.5 percent in the year to date.In his annual budget, UK Finance Minister George Osborne offered to help UK manufacturing by extending a compensation scheme that offsets some of the industry's carbon costs out to 2020, and by freezing the country's carbon price floor.Despite these measures, UK energy-intensive industries such as steel pay about 30 percent more for electricity than their main EU competitors and are subject to some of the highest carbon taxes in Europe.Indian-owned Tata Steel became involved in Europe through its $13 billion acquisition of Britain's Corus in 2007.

  • Big Four Steel Companies in Korea to Start Financial Restructuring
    Korean steel companies are focusing on improving their financial structure. As the recession continues, they are trying to increase the cash flow by sell-offs of minor businesses and IPOs of subsidiaries. This is how they react to a chronic recession of the industry, due to increasing supply and decreasing demand.According to sources in steel industry on July 10, the big four steel companies of POSCO, Hyundai Steel, Dongkuk Steel, and Dongbu Steel are trying to restructure their financial status during the second half this year. Facing serious liquidity problems, some companies are even considering selling out not only minor businesses but also healthy subsidiary companies.Although POSCO, the number one steel company in Korea, is relatively stable compared to other companies, financial restructuring is still very crucial. Since Chairman Kwon Oh-joon has come on board, the IPO of subsidiary companies such as POSCO Energy and selloff of Daewoo International, one of POSCO's major subsidiaries, have always been options. POSCO is planning to make money by selling off marketable assets without seriously impairing its competitiveness in market. POSCO decided not to acquire the package of Dongbu Steel Incheon plant and Donbgu Power Dangjin due to financial difficulties, as well.Hyundai Steel is also speeding up on financial restructuring by appointing Kang Hak-seo as CEO. CEO Kang, ex-CFO, is expected to be very strict in his management activities. Hyundai Steel is the only company with a two-digit growth rate in both revenue and profit among all Korean steel companies. However, Hyundai Steel has a high debt ratio because of big investments so far. Its debt ratio during the first quarter of this year is 121.69 percent, which is higher than the 90.02 percent of POSCO, number one in industry.Dongguk Steel, number 3 in the industry, is having very hard times these days, as it is the only case among all Korean steel companies to form a financial restructuring contract with creditors. Before the financial restructuring contract, Dongguk Steel gained 200 billion won (US$196.6 million) in capital by issuing new stocks. Chairman Jang Sea-joo’s family participated in this.As the selloff of Incheon plant has failed, a creditor council started to control Dongbu Steel in order to improve its financial structure and stabilize management. Depending on the agreement of the creditor council, exercising debenture will be postponed and due diligence executed for three months. Dongbu Steel is also trying to sell out Dongbu Special Steel, number two in the Korean special steel market.Some claim that it will take very long for steel companies to achieve financial stability even with a lot of efforts.Jung Min-soo, director of Korea Investors Service, predicted, “The market outlook for construction and shipbuilding which require steel is still quite bad. It will take time to improve financial structures due to a long-lasting recession of the steel market and other front industries.”

  • US imposes duties on Korea steel pipe
    The Obama administration imposed duties on steel pipe from South Korea and eight other nations in a victory for U.S. Steel Corp and the United Steelworkers union, which said they were hurt by unfair competition from overseas.The US Commerce Department set duties from 9.89% to 15.75% on Korean pipe, which is used in oil drilling, according to a fact sheet released today by the agency. Last year, pipe worth $818 million was exported to the US from South Korea. Duties ranging from 2.05% to 118.32% also were imposed on pipe from the other nations, which sent $722 million worth of pipe to the US last year.“We applaud their decision to prevent further gamesmanship of our laws and to secure our nation’s economy,” US Steel chief executive officer Mario Longhi said today in a statement.The Commerce Department determined the steel pipe had been sold in the US below cost, or dumped, in violation of international trade rules, after the steel industry filed a complaint.The duties must be paid on the imports immediately, though will be refunded if the US International Trade Commission determines that American producers weren’t harmed by the imports, a ruling scheduled in the coming months.“This practice has already caused serious harm to our domestic steel industry,” Steelworkers president Leo Gerard said today in a statement. “Plants are being idled, workers are losing jobs and communities are suffering.”Today’s finding overturns a Commerce Department decision in February not to set anti-dumping duties on the Korean imports. U.S. Steel, the nation’s largest metal producer, and the union said that determination was miscalculated, and they lobbied for penalty duties.
    U.S. Steel rose 86 cents to $27.64 at 4.15pm New York time, and touched $28,30, a 5.7% increase, after the decision was disclosed. The shares are down 6.3% this year.
    Officials from the South Korean embassy in Washington declined to comment publicly.
    “Today’s ruling is an important step toward ensuring a level playing field for our workers and businesses,” Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said in a joint statement with Rob Portman, his Republican colleague.U.S. Steel has a major manufacturing facility for the goods in Lorain, Ohio, about 48 kilometres west of Cleveland.

  • JSW Steel Q1 output up over 8 percent at 3 million tonnes
    JSW Steel's production rose more than eight per cent to 3.1 million tonnes (MT) in the first quarter ended June 30.The Sajjan Jindal-led firm had produced 2.86 MT crude steel in the April-June quarter of last fiscal, it said in a statement.Production of flat products was at 2.43 MT during the reporting quarter compared to 2.23 MT a year ago, clocking a growth of nine per cent.However, the rate of growth in the production of long products was better than flat products.JSW Steel produced 0.52 MT long products during the quarter compared to 0.45 MT a year earlier.Flat products are generally used in automobile and consumer durables sectors. Long products find application in the construction sector.

  • Steelmakers oppose duty hike on coking coal
    Steel millers have opposed the duty hike proposal on coking coal citing that it will lead to cost escalation of finished product amid sluggish demand. Along with the proposal to include coking coal under a uniform import duty structure of 2.5 per cent for all variety of imported coal, the Union government also raised clean energy cess on usage of the fuel from Rs 50 to Rs 100 a tonne in the budget proposal. Steelmakers estimated it will have considerable impact on their profitability.
    “As per our estimate, the new proposals will cost us Rs  25 crore more for this fiscal,” said S P Padhi, former finance director of Neelachal Ispat Nigam  Ltd (NINL). The state-based firm buys coking coal worth Rs 900 crore every year.Coking coal, after conversion into coke, is used as a fuel to produce crude steel from sponge iron and sinter. India buys about 4 million tonne coke and 33 million tonne coking coal every year, mainly from Australia and Indonesia.NINL has the capacity to produce 1.1 million tonne crude steel, out of which 900,000 tonne is used for producing billets and the rest is sold as pig iron. For each tonne of crude steel, around 800 kg coking coal is required.Trade observers said though the duty is going to affect cost of production of steel makers, they can not pass it on to the consumers.“The rise in duty is definitely going to affect the cost of production for steel making, but I do not think they will be able to pass it on to consumers given poor demand scenario,” said an analyst with a large stock broking firm based in Mumbai.During last fiscal, steel producers imported 33.12 million tonne (mt) coking coal, an improvement of 18.26 per cent over the previous comparable period, taking advantage of price slump. Average coking coal prices remained around $111-$118 a tonne throughout 2013-14 in global markets, sharply lower than $140 a tonne in 2012-13. With 7.5 mt shipment, Mormugao was the largest importing port of coking coal, followed by Paradip with 7.0 mt imports.
    Vishakhapatnam retained the third biggest importing port slot with shipments of 6.9 mt, data from Indian Port Association showed.India heavily depends upon coking coal imports as its indigenous production meets only a tenth of the requirement. Despite the duty hike, continuously lower pricing of the fuel in global markets since the start of 2014 will cushion the duty hike impact, the analyst said.Global coking coal prices have been under pressure for last one year or so, as biggest importers such as China and Japan have reduced orders. While China is sourcing coking coal from Mangolia, Japana slashed shipments of coking coal on slower demand from steel units.
  • Bhilai Plant gas leak Ill thought cost cutting blamed for tragedy
    It was raining haevily in the first week of July 2012, when Radheshyam Dhruv got a call past midnight. It was from the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) pump house, where a small fault required immediate attention.Dhruv (name changed to protect his identity) was a small contractor attending to minor maintenance work in the plant. BSP also happens to be the highest profit-making entity of Steel Authority of India Ltd, in Durg district of Chhattisgarh. Amid heavy rains, he rushed there and rectified the fault.He doesn't get such calls now. "I am now rendered jobless. For, the BSP management had abolished the rate contract system about a year ago," he said. Under the system, small contractors were assigned maintenance work in different sections of the plant. The management then felt that instead of hiring many small contractors, it would be better to assign the work to a big contractor, to cut the cost.However, what has happened is that the pluses of the old system have gone, without a replacement. "The proposals of big contractors that run into crores (of rupees) could not be approved easily from the higher management and the maintenance work was severely affected," explained a senior official, on condition of anonymity. The proposals of small contractors were in a few lakhs of rupees each and the authorities did not find it difficult to approve. It was an effective and convenient system of maintenance, he said.The BSP management did not respond to queries sent by email.In sum, small contractors had been denied work but the big contractors still awaited approval. The result was that maintenance work had been severely affected. This was one reason for the tragedy on June 12, when the header of Pump House-2 that supplied water to the Gas Cleaning Plant (GCP) of the blast furnaces had ruptured. As the water supply to the GCP was stopped, there was a sudden loss in water pressure to the GCP and blast furnace gas from the scrubbers entered the water pipeline. The gas, reported to be a combination of methane and carbon monoxide, started leaking from the ruptured part of the pipeline. And, six staffers, including two deputy general managers attending the breakdown, died.The accident is reported to be the biggest in the history of the plant. And, yet, the rate contract system is not restored and nor have big contractors been awarded the maintenance work in the plant. The preliminary reports suggested the pipeline in Pump House-2 was in a bad shape because of lack of maintenance."The maintenance work has been in bad shape," says Gajendra Singh, a former trade union leader. The machines are old and the employees under pressure for production, he said. Instead of renovating the older plants, he said, the management seemed to be concentrating on capacity expansion.After the Pump-2 accident, the ruptured part had been replaced. "It is only a temporary repairing that will not help; the plant requires capital investment for a permanent remedy," said Singh. "The morale of employees is low, as they are developing a feeling that no one is bothered about their safety."After the accident, the management has installed a gas monitor with a hooter. The gas would affect humans only if it crosses 400 ppm. There is always some gas in the atmosphere and it got diverted towards the hooter with a change in wind flow around 10 days earlier. The hooter went off, creating a panic; yet the monitor showed the level of gas at only 70 ppm.

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  • Lokesh Kuldeer, Esueno Technologies

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