Ancient steel

Steel was known in antiquity, and may have been produced by managing the bloomery so that the bloom contained carbon.[9] Some of the first steel comes from East Africa, dating back to 1400 BC.[10] In the 4th century BC steel weapons like the Falcata were produced in the Iberian Peninsula, while Noric steel was used by the Roman military. The Chinese of the Warring States (403–221 BC) had quench-hardened steel,[11] while Chinese of the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) created steel by melting together wrought iron with cast iron, gaining an ultimate product of a carbon-intermediate—steel by the 1st century AD

Tata Steel rejigs capex plans as crunch bites

TATA Steel, India’s largest steelmaker, will continue with its Rs 27,000-crore plan to expand capacity at Jamshedpur and build a new plant
at Orissa, while it will push back other capex plans and greenfield units at Jharkhand and Chattisgarh due to the liquidity crisis and slow demand, MD B Muthuraman said on Monday.

”We are reassessing our capex plans…there are some projects that are highly revenue creating like the Jamshedpur and Orissa plans… these are on the fast track for us,” he told ET. “Other projects have been pushed back,” he said, adding that plans for building new steel plants in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, too, have been delayed.

Tata Steel is planning to expand its Jamshedpur capacity by 3 MT to 10 MT by 2010, at an estimated cost of Rs 12,000 crore. It also has plans to build a 3-MT plant at Kalinganagar in Orissa at Rs 15,000 crore. The Orissa unit would be the first phase of a 6-MT plant, he added. “The financing for these two projects has been completed and land has also been acquired in Orissa,” Mr Muthuraman said. The liquidity crisis and slow demand has, however, prompted the company to push back its other plans that includes its units in south-east Asia and Europe.

Tata Steel had proposed to invest about Rs 42,000 crore for a 12-MT integrated steel plant in Jharkhand, while in Chattisgarh, it would build a 5-MT steel plant in two phases at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore, he said. The company had acquired Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus in 2007 for $13 bn that catapulted Tata Steel as the world’s sixth largest steel company by capacity. Recent demand concerns in the US and Europe have prompted Corus to cut production by about 30%, while also cutting about 400 jobs at its distribution business in the UK and Ireland.

Mr Muthuraman, however, ruled out any similar measures in India. “We don’t see the need for any production cut here,” he added. Tata Steel recently said its hot strip mill at Jamshedpur would be closed for 17 days as part of an annual maintenance exercise that would restrict production of hot rolled coils.

The fall in demand has led to a softening in prices, with steel prices falling sharply to about $500 per tonne, compared to about $1,100, earlier in the year. “Prices must always relate to prices of raw materials and since raw materials have already started falling, I expect steel prices to stabilise now,” said Mr Muthuraman.

No output cut, JSPL to go ahead with capex plans

Naveen Jindal-led Jindal Steel & Power (JSPL), has no plans to cut production amidst the ongoing economic slowdown, a top company
executive said on Tuesday.

In fact, the company’s capital expenditure plans for the year are on track and it aims to start production in time.

“Since the demand for steel products has picked up marginally, we don’t intend to cut production. Our projects are on and we will prioritise them as per requirements, they will not be deferred,” JSPL executive vice-chairman Naveen Jindal said at the Indian Economic Summit.

JSPL plans to set up three integrated steel plants at Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand with investments of over $20-billion over a period of 5-6 years. Currently, JSPL manufactures 3 million tonne of long steel products at its Raigarh facility. Long products, comprising bar and structurals, are mainly used for construction.

Asked if the company’s profit margins would get impacted as a result of the economic slowdown, Mr Jindal said, “We posted a 62% increase in net profit in the second quarter of current fiscal vis-à-vis the previous year and are looking forward to a similar growth this quarter as well.”

Referring to the price movements in steel products, Mr Jindal said, “Prices have already hit the bottom. For the coming 2-3 months, prices would stabilise more or less at the current level. Let markets determine the prices.”

Tata-owned Corus to cut steel production

Tata-owned steel giant Corus has announced plans to cut production in Europe by up to one million tonnes over the next three months due to slowing demand. “The decision is aimed at aligning steel production with demand, which is now affected by the consequences of the global financial crisis,” the group said in a statement. The company said that production at its plants outside Europe will not be affected by the reduced production targets.
Corus, Europe’s second largest steelmaker, now produces more than 20 million tonnes of crude steel a year. “We are taking appropriate steps to optimise our operations and protect our sound financial position over the next few months,” Corus chief executive Philippe Varin said.


Goa’s iron ore exporters in worst slump

Goa’s iron ore exporting industry is going through one of the worst slumps in its history, says a top official of an ore exporters’ lobby. Steel plants worldwide shifting to high grade ore to cut energy costs, several Chinese steel plants under closure and stiff competition from new-found mines on Australia’s western coast have combined to send Goa’s low grade ore exports into a tailspin, S Sridhar, the executive director of industry lobby Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association, said on Thursday.

“Demand has fallen by more than 50 percent to 300,000 tonnes this September from 700,000 tonnes last September,” said Sridhar. “Prices too have fallen by 60 to 65 percent. This is one of the worst slumps we have seen. The closure of steel mills in China, which in the recent past had accounted for more than 85 percent of Goan ore exports, has hit the industry the most,” he said.

“China was a booming market until the Beijing Olympics. During the run-up to the Games, the Chinese government ordered several steel mills closed to cut down on pollution. These mills have not opened since due to a possible credit crunch,” he said. He further added that some of the ports in China had heavy inventories piled up to the tune of 70 to 80 million tonnes of ore. Sridhar also claimed that the global economic recession had forced the infrastructure industry to cut corners wherever they could and one of the first casualties of the trimming exercise was low grade ore.

“Energy costs for processing low grade ore are higher when compared to high grade ore and so steel plants worldwide have switched to high grade ore to cut down energy costs. High grade ore is, unfortunately, non-existent in Goa,” Sridhar said. He also said that the emergence of the Yandi mines in Western Australia meant that the mining industry in Goa would either have to buck up or go into the red. “The extraction of ore from Yandi mines alone rivals the extraction from the whole of Goa.”

In 2007, Goa exported nearly 33 million tonnes of iron ore to markets including China, Japan, South Korea and Romania. Sridhar warned that the slump in the mining industry would engineer a trickle-down effect, affecting everyone all the way to truck and barge owners. “Decrease in demand will obviously mean hardships for everybody.” He also hinted at possible resource sharing exercises by mining companies in Goa to cut production costs to fight the slump. “You could possibly see some joint ventures between mining firms in the near future,” he said.(IANS)


Corus to cut steel production 30%

Europe’s second-largest steel company Corus has announced plans for a 30% cut in production over the next six months due to weakening demand in Europe.

Three blast furnaces, at Port Talbot and Scunthorpe in Britain, and one in the Netherlands, will shut temporarily.

Corus, which is owned by India’s Tata Steel, blamed the global economic downturn for the cuts.

Chief executive, Philippe Varin, said Corus had to adapt “to the changing environment with maximum speed”.

Shut down

The cut is greater than expected. Last month, Corus said it would cut production between October and December by a million tonnes of crude steel – about 20% of its output.

In a statement the firm said it had now decided to extend these production cuts beyond December.

Corus said no jobs would be lost as a result of the production cutback. The firm, which employs more than 24,000 workers in the UK, announced 400 job losses in its distribution business, on 6 November.

Michael Leahy, general secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community, said the shut down “underlines how the economic crisis is hurting manufacturing in Britain”.

“We are hopeful that Corus will look to retain capacity to meet long-term demand rather than make a knee-jerk reaction to short-term trends,” he said.

One blast furnace at Scunthorpe, Port Talbot, and IJmuiden in the Netherlands, will be temporarily shut down, the firm said.

Corus said it expected to produce about 30% less crude steel than planned during the two quarters to the end of March 2009.


India’s JSW Steel starts work on West Bengal plant

JSW Steel Ltd (JSTL.BO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), India’s third largest producer, on Sunday laid the foundation of an integrated steel unit in eastern West Bengal state to produce 10 million tonnes of steel by 2020.

The project on a free tax zone would entail an investment of 350 billion rupees in three phases, Sajjan Jindal managing director of JSW Steel told reporters.

“We would produce three million tonnes of steel by 2012 from the unit when it goes onstream, followed by six million tonne by 2015.” he said.

“We will reach our target of producing 10 million tonnes of steel by 2020.”

The inauguration of the project at Salboni, which is about four hours’ drive from Kolkata in an economically backward district, was marked by a huge presence of cadres of the ruling communists in West Bengal.

Last month, Tata Motors (TAMO.BO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) moved its ultra-cheap Nano small car project from the state in the face of farmers’ protest over land seizure.

The communists in the eastern state is showcasing the project to fight negative publicity it got when Tata Motors shifted its plant to another state.

Unlike the Tata plant, the JSW project faced no protest over land acquisition after the steel maker offered farmers jobs and shares in its unit JSW Bengal Steel.

“We are against forcible land acquisition from farmers. We started work with support of the villagers,” Jindal said.

The company has acquired 4,500 acres of land for the plant.

JSW Steel owns 89 percent of the equity in the unit in Bengal. The remaining is held by the state government.


China’s Rizhao, Shandong Steel agree to consolidate

China’s Rizhao Iron and Steel, one of China’s largest private-sector steel mills, has signed an agreement to consolidate with a state-owned rival, the official China Securities Journal said on Thursday.

Rizhao and Shandong Iron and Steel, located in eastern China’s Shandong province, signed a letter of intent on consolidation on Wednesday, the paper said. It gave no further details.

Fast-growing Rizhao produces 8 million tonnes of crude steel annually and has attracted analysts’ attention for its high profit margins.

Consolidation has progressed slowly but steadily in China’s fragmented steel sector, with encouragement from the government.

The state-owned parents of Laiwu Steel Corp and Jinan Iron and Steel Co have merged to form Shandong Iron and Steel Group, although they have yet to give a time frame for a formal combination of their equity.