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Former steel financier bullish on shale

Mar 21, 2014 | 05:10 PM |

Tags  Wilbur Ross, ArcelorMittal, shale, Capital Link, International Steel Group, Thorsten Schier

NEW YORK — Former steel financier and ArcelorMittal SA director Wilbur Ross is banking on the shale gas revolution to drive a North American manufacturing renaissance.

“I’m a big believer in shale gas and it’s cousin, tight oil,” the chairman and chief executive officer of New York-based investment firm Wilbur Ross & Co. LLC said at Capital Link Inc.’s eighth annual Shipping Forum in New York.

While domestic energy costs have fallen due to cheap natural gas, prompting Linz, Austria-based Voestalpine AG to build a 2-million-tonne-per-year hot-briquetted iron facility in Texas (, March 13, 2013), wages in China are rising, making manufacturing there less competitive, according to Ross.

However, Ross expressed concern about federal regulations crimping the growth of the shale industry. “My worry is that instead of getting out of the way, (the federal government is) getting in the way,” he said.

In general, a state of uncertainty about federal regulations, both environmental and in such areas as health care, are holding back company spending, he said.

“It’s no wonder that American companies are holding on to their cash until they understand what the ground rules are,” Ross said, also urging the speedy approval of more projects for exporting liquefied natural gas to countries that don’t have a free-trade deals with the United States.

“Those alone would be $100 billion worth of capital investments,” he said, adding that some of the proposed projects are “not only shovel-ready, but shovel-hungry.”

Ross sold International Steel Group Inc., a collection of bankrupt North American steel producers like LTV Corp. and Bethlehem Steel Corp., to Mittal Steel Co. NV in 2005 for $4.5 billion (, April 18, 2005).

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