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ArcelorMittal rejigs US sales structure

Keywords: Tags  ArcelorMittal, ArcelorMittal USA, domestic steel, foreign steel, flat steel, Catherine Ngai, Chris Prentice

NEW YORK — Global steelmaker ArcelorMittal SA and its domestic counterpart, ArcelorMittal USA Inc., will restructure their sales frameworks in the United States to allow the same sales representatives to sell both domestic and imported flat-rolled steel to U.S. customers, sources familiar with the situation confirmed.

In recent years, U.S. buyers received offers from two different ArcelorMittal sales representatives—one offering flat products from the company’s U.S. mills and one offering material from its foreign mills.

In recent weeks, however, the company has been discussing plans to implement a new sales structure in the United States in which each customer interacts with just one company representative who will offer material from both U.S. and foreign ArcelorMittal mills.

"They’re going to have their own (domestic) salespeople handling the imported steel, we were told," one customer said.

Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA declined to comment, while a spokesman for Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal SA could not be reached for comment.

According to sources, the move is intended to help the company expand sales opportunities in the United States and consolidate efforts, particularly when it comes to overlapping issues like credit and logistics.

"There wasn’t enough coordination between the two," one trader said. "The (foreign) guys were only doing import business ... and weren’t involved at all in selling domestic product. When you look at it, why don’t you leverage one with the other? If someone prefers one product, you can’t look at it without the other. The last thing you want to do is compete with yourself."

Sales staff will be trained on how to sell new product from different mills, AMM understands, while discussions over combining credit and logistics departments are still ongoing. The new structure will undergo a one-year trial, sources familiar with the plan said.

Some sources said the move will help the company stay competitive in an oversupplied domestic steel market, since sales representatives will be able to offer and leverage material from more sources.

Others said the plan could help smooth over issues that sometimes arose when two co-workers—one representing U.S. mills and one representing foreign mills—found themselves competing for the same customer.

"For years, the sales guys were at odds with one another," a second trader said. "Every time the foreign guys wanted to sell something, the domestic guys had to approve it first."

Foreign material from any company is often priced slightly lower than domestic material, but in recent months import and domestic prices have nearly converged, sources said, making the products more comparable.

Chris Prentice, New York, contributed to this story.

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