NEW YORK OAO TMK expects
the first half of the year to be "filled with uncertainty" due
to changes in customer buying patterns for its pipe products
and drilling activity, it said.
"It will only be in the second
half of 2013 that we expect to see a more positive
environment," the Russian steelmaker, parent of Downers Grove,
Ill.-based tube and pipe maker TMK Ipsco, said as it released
its fourth-quarter operating results.
Shipments from the Moscow-based
companys American operations fell 3.7 percent to 255,000
tonnes in the fourth quarter compared with the previous
quarter, mainly due to a declining rig count and customers
opting to use inventory on hand rather than ordering new stock,
the company said. However, TMK also saw tubular shipments
increase 4.8 percent year on year to 1.1 million tonnes.
All pipe segments, with the
exception of seamless line pipe, also notched year on year
gains in the Americas division, the company said.
TMK has seen a notable shift in
U.S. drill rig activity to oil from gas, with about 75 percent
of rigs now employed in oil drilling. And despite a recent
uptick in natural gas prices, they remain well below historical
levels. Meanwhile, oil prices have remained relatively
The increased oil exploration
has boosted demand for TMKs premium connections, the
About 73 percent of U.S. rigs
are now involved in horizontal or directional drilling due to
the development of U.S. shale plays, it added.
Across TMKs global
operations, pipe shipments dipped 0.3 percent year on year to
4.22 million tonnes in 2012.
Welded pipe shipments logged a
7.5-percent decline to about 1.7 million tonnes last year,
partly offset by a 5.3-percent gain in seamless pipe shipments
to 2.5 million tonnes.
Shipments of oil country tubular
goods also improved to 1.7 million tonnes, up 9.5 percent from