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USSK draws interest, but no decision on a sale: Surma

Keywords: Tags  U.S. Steel, John Surma, Slovakia, USSK, U.S. Steel Kosice, Metinvest, flat products, Michael Cowden

CHICAGO — U.S. Steel Corp.’s chairman and chief executive officer John P. Surma confirmed that other companies are interested in its U.S. Steel Košice SRO operations in Slovakia.

“We’ve had some expressions of interest in the (USSK) facility to see if it might be worth more to somebody else than it would be to us,” Surma said during a Jan. 29 conference call with analysts.

No decision has been made on a possible sale of USSK, he said, but it was "not surprising that others might be interested in it," given that USSK is an "excellent facility" boasting low costs and a strong record of productivity and profitability.

"We’ve been doing business in Slovakia for more than 10 years and ... made great money there over most of that time," Surma said.

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel has invested heavily in the facility since acquiring it in 2000, giving it a strong position in several markets, including automotive steel. The steelmaker also has enjoyed a good relationship with the Slovakian government, he said, and has benefited from the manufacturing-friendly policies of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia that have attracted automakers to the region.

"We can do really well there for the long term. Whether somebody else thinks they could do better is a different question," Surma said.

USSK has acknowledged receiving a number of expressions of interest in acquiring the mill (, Nov. 14). Ukrainian steelmaking group Metinvest is said to be among those interested in acquiring the Slovak flat products producer (, Jan. 16).

U.S. Steel Europe recorded operating earnings of $34 million last year, in contrast to a $162-million loss in 2011, despite a 22.6-percent decline in shipments to 3.82 million tons from 4.93 million tons.

U.S. Steel Europe is expected to see stronger shipments and better results in the first quarter despite continuing challenging economic conditions in Europe, the company said, largely because of additional contract volume and spot market business increasing as service centers and distributors restock.

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