Steel cos may hold capacity expansion

Indian steel producers may not be able to expand production capacity to meet burgeoning demand if their operating margins remain at current levels, Tata Steel’s managing director B Muthuraman said on Wednesday.

“Our margins are not good,” he said, even as steel secretary R S Pandey noted that profit margins for some producers were as high as 20% in June.

Refusing to name any company, Pandey said, “The range of profit margins is as wide as 15-45% for different companies.” But Muthuraman maintained that steel prices in India were Rs 15,000-20,000 lower than international prices despite rising input costs. “I have seen consumer prices rising disproportionately to steel prices,” he said, adding that the benefits of low steel prices here hadn’t reached end users.

Steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that profits of domestic steel producers have risen despite hike in raw material costs. He said steel price hike has been higher than rise in cost of production.

“If I tell mediapersons that steel prices have risen because of higher input costs, they will ask me why this hike is higher than that in input costs,” Paswan said. He urged steel producers to monitor the prices themselves.

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