AK Steel CEO says more layoffs probable

AK Steel CEO says steelmaker says 1,000 workers already laid off and number likely to double

CINCINNATI (AP) — AK Steel’s chairman and chief executive says more layoffs are likely at the steel company due to the struggling economy.

James Wainscott said Thursday after a speech at Xavier University that U.S. steel manufacturers are currently operating at about 50 percent of capacity. He also serves as chairman of the American Iron and Steel Institute.

He says West Chester-based AK Steel Holding Corp. already has laid off about 1,000 of its 6,500 employees at nine plants and will “probably double that before things get better.”

Wainscott says low demand has led AK Steel to aggressively reduce costs, including temporarily idling plants and reducing salaried employee pay by 5 percent.

Wainscott also says the “buy American” provisions in the $787 billion federal stimulus plan are common sense.

Source: http://news.indiamart.com/news-link

JSW Steel to pip Tata; become India’s largest private steel maker.

NEW DELHI: Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Steel is set to pip Tata Steel and become the country’s largest private sector steel producer with the commissioning of a 3 MTPA extended production line at its Vijaynagar facility tomorrow.

“We are commissioning the three million tonnes per annum additional production line at Vijaynagar plant on February 18, taking its total capacity to 6.8 MTPA,” JSW Steel Vice- Chairman and Managing Director Sajjan Jindal told reporters.

With the start of commercial production from the expanded facility, JSW Steel’s overall production capacity would reach 7.8 million tonnes from the present 4.8 million tonnes (including 1-MTPA from Salem unit).

As of now, SAIL is India’s largest public sector steel maker with annual production close to 15 million tonnes, while Tata Steel tops the list among private players with installed production capacity of 6.8 million tonnes at Jamshedpur.

Hit by the global economic crisis, JSW Steel had put on hold the commissioning of the new blast furnace, which is claimed to the country’s largest furnace, for six months.

However, marching ahead with its expansion plans, JSW Steel said it has achieved financial closure to further augment the capacity of the Vijanagar unit to 10-MTPA.

“We have tied-up the finances to further increase the capacity of our Vijaynagar plant to 10-MTPA,” Jindal said.

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Licence requirement for import of hot-rolled steel likely to go

The government may soon remove licensing restrictions on imports of steel hot-rolled (HR) coils, as the commerce ministry’s decision is being widely viewed as “an unfair, unnecessary deterrent” to trade, a senior steel ministry official said today.

In December, the government imposed licensing restrictions on import of some products, including HR coils and seamless pipes and tubes.

It last month freed seamless pipes and tubes from that restriction.“It is only logical that HR coils (imports) are also freed. The commerce ministry is not finding any support,” the steel ministry official said.

“If we have to curb imports, this is not the way,” he said.

The steel ministry has also made a fresh recommendation to the finance ministry, seeking 10 per cent additional import duty on flat steel products and 5 per cent more duty on long varieties.

Currently, all steel products invite 5 per cent import duty.

Steel imports in absolute terms have come down, but producers feel they are still large enough to dent domestic sales.

“Moreover, the landed price of imports still works out to be cheaper than what we can offer. This has a negative bearing on prices,” an industry official said.

India’s steel imports during April-January dropped 16 per cent to 5 MT, while exports fell 25 per cent to 3.1 MT, according to data from Joint Plant Committee, a steel ministry arm.

India world’s No. 2 in steel output by 2015: Paswan

Even as the steel companies have reduced their production to cope up with the shrinking demand, Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today exuded confidence that India will become the world’s second-largest steel maker after China by 2015.

“We are already the world’s fifth-largest steel producer and are poised to clinch the second slot by 2015 on the back of the capacity expansion lined up by the companies,” Paswan told reporters after addressing the Golden Jubilee of state-run SAIL.

The Steel Ministry has already advanced the country’s steel production target to 124 million by 2012 instead of 2020, envisaged in the National Steel Policy 2005.

Though admitting production cuts by steel companies in the recent months to tame the slump in demand, Paswan said the proposed brownfield expansions are on track.

At present, Indian companies, including SAIL, Tata Steel, JSW Steel, Essar, JSPL and Ispat Industries produce about 55 million tonnes of steel per annum.

Reeling under slackening demand, most of the companies have either cut production or changed their product mix on the basis of the market demand.

Asked if the Steel Ministry will favour a higher import tariff on steel to protect domestic firms against cheap arrivals of the commodity from countries like China, Paswan declined to divulge details.

“We had recommended (in October) 10 per cent import duty on steel, but the government levied only five per cent. It is now up to the government to take a call,” he said.

Source: Press Trust of India / New Delhi February 03, 2009, 18:03 IST