US beam makers edgy over ArcelorMittal plan

Dec 31, 2007 | 11:38 AM | Frank Haflich

The North American structural steel market is bracing for a new player whose presence seems sure to influence this industry's future course, as ArcelorMittal SA looks to build its first beam mill in Canada.

ArcelorMittal said in December that, as part of an effort to "develop a sustainable Canadian steel business," it would spend $380 million to construct an 800,000-ton-a-year beam mill in Contrecoeur, Quebec, near Montreal. The mill would begin production in early 2010.

This would be part of a restructuring that would also result in the consolidation of ArcelorMittal's Canadian flat-rolled operations in Hamilton, Ontario, where its Dofasco Inc. subsidiary is located. But it could also result in initial job losses at Contrecoeur as hot- and cold-rolled mills there are taken down early next year.

Not surprisingly, the decision by the world's largest steelmaker—which on a worldwide basis is also a major source of structurals—to start making beams in North America has grabbed the attention of domestic mills, distributors and other parts of the beam market. Buoyed by strong non-residential construction demand and a steep cutback in imports this year due to the weak dollar, wide-flange beams avoided the pricing slumps that plagued flat-rolled products in 2007. They rose a minimum of $117 a ton in 2007, with another $25-a-ton increase slated for January.....





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