Analysts see quality more critical than price in tin mill product market 

Jan 01, 2010 | 09:24 AM | Scott Robertson

The tinplate segment of the U.S. steel market is comparatively small—shipments of just 3 million tons annually in an industry that generally manufactures more than 100 million tons of steel per year.

It's a difficult product to make, too, given strict customer requirements for flatness and finish, needs that essentially take mini-mills—some 70 percent of total U.S. production capacity—out of the game. Therein lie opportunities for the limited number of producers, according to steel industry analysts. Only three producers are significant manufacturers of tinplate in the United States, and while that small number would seem to open the door for others to get into the market, such moves are unlikely at best.

"It's very difficult to make tinplate," said Chuck Bradford, industry analyst at Affiliated Research Group, New York. "Flatness is very important to customers, and the uniformity of the coating is important, too. Not very many (steelmakers) can make it to the specifications the customers need. You have to have degassing capabilities to be able to get what (tinplate customers) want. That shuts out a lot of the mini-mills right there. The mini-mills can't make this stuff."....

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