Hurricane Sandy to lift copper demand: Encore

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hurricane Sandy will boost the construction sector and increase demand for Encore Wire Corp.’s copper products, chief financial officer and vice president Frank Bilban told AMM.

"In construction, in general, obviously (in the) short term Sandy is going to provide a pop," he said on the sidelines of the American Copper Council fall meeting in Fort Lauderdale. "There is going to be a lot of repair, a lot of remodeling and some rebuilding."

The hurricane that hit the East Coast Oct. 29 left thousands without power and destroyed and damaged homes in New York and New Jersey.

"So we are hoping that over the next one to two years that, while Sandy’s victims are certainly in our hearts and minds, from a business perspective for construction materials it should be positive," he said. "They claim there’s 250,000 cars destroyed—that’s a boost to the car industry. No matter how you look at it, long term it’s going to create consumption. And long term could be next year; it could be longer."

The presidential election had a negative effect on sales at McKinney, Texas-based Encore in September and October, but now that it’s over, Bilban has hope that construction will resume.

"September and October, it was like the whole country froze and we saw two straight months of poor sales. ... My view is we’ve already had four years of this administration, you kinda know where it’s going. You either really need to build something or you don’t," he said, adding that the issue of a fiscal cliff is now a more important roadblock.

"If Congress can get together and at least take some positive action on that, I’m hopeful that 2013 and 2014 ... will be positive for our industry," Bilban said.

While Bilban remains cautiously optimistic about future copper demand, he declined to forecast prices.

Copper price volatility has declined, he said, but proposed physically backed copper exchange-traded funds (ETFs) from New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BlackRock Inc. could see it return and perhaps increase.

"The volatility has gone down, but now they’re talking about adding ETFs, which we personally as a company don’t think is a great idea," Bilban said.

Encore, together with Carrollton, Ga.-based Southwire Co. Inc., London-based Luvata UK Ltd., Newark, N.J.-based AmRod Corp. and the London-based metals-focused hedge fund RK Capital Management LLP, have written to the Securities and Exchange Commission twice to voice their opposition to the proposed ETFs (, Oct. 25).

"The industry in general is down on it. We don’t know that their ability to tie up copper stocks is going to be productive for the consumer at all. That could have an impact," he told AMM. "If anything, we just think it will a) add volatility, and b) potentially constrict supply to some extent."

Encore was shocked by the SEC’s recent statement that there is no strong correlation between copper inventories, which the copper users believe will be greatly diminished if the ETFs are approved, and prices (, Nov. 9).

"That stunned us," Bilban said. "Obviously, if you want to refute the laws of supply and demand, you might want to go back to business school or something."

While Encore is opposed to the ETF, the company isn’t taking any precautionary measures, he said.

"We buy copper on a monthly average Comex price, in general, and we plan to stick to that. With our balance sheet and our history, copper suppliers have generally been eager to sell (to) us, and we anticipate that to continue," Bilban said.

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