For Kobe Steel, the first order of business is back-to-the-black

Oct 21, 2013 | 05:35 PM | Jo Isenberg

Tags  Kobe Steel, Hiroya Kawasaki, aluminum, copper, titanium, steel, Kawogawa, Jo Isenberg

Japan’s third largest integrated steelmaker has had its resiliency tested tons of times in the 100-plus years since a Japanese trading firm acquired a steel business based in Wakinohama, Kobe, sowing the seeds of what is now the Kobe Steel Group, a steel and diversified metals and manufacturing company with international holdings in aluminum, copper and titanium as well as construction machinery, cranes, and engineering, and welding equipment and supplies.

More than a century of history and evolution has dished up disasters big and small for the Japanese long and flat products steel producer. The company has endured man-made and natural catastrophes ranging from the Allied airstrikes which by the end of WWII left plants and manufacturing sites throughout Japan heavily damaged to 50 years later when the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake struck western Japan in 1995. The quake completely destroyed Kobe Steel’s headquarters building, forced the shutdown of the blast furnace anchoring its Kobe Works, and racked up an estimated 102 billion yen ($1.3 billion) in damage.

Today, after two years of deepening losses, Kobe Steel, which produced 7.01 million metric tons of crude steel in fiscal year 2012 ended March 31, 2013, faces a test as daunting as any measured in megatons or on a Richter scale.

Kobe Steel former president and chief executive officer Hiroshi Sato wasted no time identifying the urgency of the situation and issuing a mandate to Kobe’s some 35,000 employees in a new year’s message delivered the first working day of this year. “Our top priority in fiscal 2013 is to turn a profit on a consolidated ordinary income basis,” Sato said. “The market will not allow us to keep making losses.”....

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