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Titanium discounts will not alter RTI plans

Keywords: Tags  titanium, RTI International Metals, Dawne S. Hickton, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Lockheed Martin, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — RTI International Metals Inc. is unconcerned about the impact on its own business of reported price-cutting in the titanium spot market.

RTI has seen "some very aggressive opportunistic approaches" in the spot market that appear geared toward landing orders for shipment "before year-end," vice chairwoman, president and chief executive officer Dawne S. Hickton said. However, she stressed that this does not factor into RTI’s overall strategy and has little relevance for the Pittsburgh-based producer, distributor and fabricator.

From RTI’s perspective, "there’s really not a lot of activity in the spot market," Hickton said, emphasizing that the company is "more focused on our long-term relationships" instead of chasing "one-off" business at discounted prices.

Spot titanium prices have been declining for the better part of this year, according to industry sources. However, most titanium shipped by major producers to the domestic aerospace industry is not sold in the spot market. Instead, it is sold through multi-year, long-term supply agreements between mills and their original equipment customers in the airframe and engine industry, where pricing often is negotiated beforehand or is dependent on various economic and commodity indices, according to industry observers.

The sources noted that RTI is not normally considered a significant spot player for the products seen as most vulnerable to movement, such as standard 6-aluminum/4-vanadium ingot and bar.

RTI’s total mill product shipments next year will improve only "modestly" from an estimated 16.5 million pounds this year, Hickton said. While she sees an "accelerating" ramp-up into 2015 due mainly to growing commercial aircraft demand, there is nevertheless "uncertainty" connected with RTI’s role as the primary source of mill products for Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

RTI’s shipments for the F-35 this year will fall below the earlier forecast of 2 million pounds, due not only to delays resulting from the recent government shutdown but the "uncertainty that continues to surround sequestration."

Hickton said RTI is now maintaining a "wait-and-see" attitude based on the outcome of "headwinds" whose effect is still unclear. "Will we get there and maybe even catch up with what we lost this year or, alternatively, will we see January budget shutdowns and questions about sequestration?"

But despite "short-term ordering delays," Hickton does not think the impact on the F-35 is permanent, and RTI sees "a lot of support" for the program. "It’s really just the timing of when we get the orders in," she said.

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