Price volatility, overcapacity, credit restrictions and trade barriers among issues facing long steel industry, but positive signs from global economy

The 69th meeting of IREPAS (International Rebar Exporters and Producers Association) was held in Istanbul, Turkey on September 22-24, 2013. There were 120 producer representatives amongst the 407 registered delegates from 49 different countries. Kim Marti was named as Chairman of IREPAS, replacing Ugur Dalbeler.

Ioannis Meimaroglu, Chairman of the Raw Materials Suppliers’ Committee, confirmed that a record high number of 42 representatives attended the committee meeting in Istanbul. Meimaroglou stated that the raw material suppliers fully understand the difficulties steel producers are facing in selling finished products under prevailing market conditions, and their efforts to reduce their costs, including the costs of raw material. He went on to emphasize that scrap suppliers are indeed trying to reduce their scrap collection prices, while adding that they are facing some major issues. First of all, he pointed to the difficulty presented by domestic market competition in any country where scrap demand increases because of the introduction of new steel capacities, or because the winter is coming, or because steel mills want to take advantage of low scrap prices.

Mr. Meimaroglou went on to say that scrap prices are influenced by prices of other raw materials, including iron ore and steel billet, which can be used – as nowadays – as an alternative when prices allow it. He said that it is impossible to achieve the greater degree of stability that scrap suppliers are seeking in order to better plan their medium-term activity. Due to unpredictable market conditions, scrap suppliers are keeping their inventories low, which in turn results in increased volatility. He also said that, when scrap prices are going down and margin expectations also diminish, a significant number of scrap collectors halt their activities, which leads to reduced scrap availability.

Meimaroglou added that official policies and regulations, especially in some countries, is completely hostile to scrap exports, aiming to limit them as much as possible. Furthermore, financing by banks – due to the general economical situation, but also due to problems which have arisen in recent years in the steel sector – is becoming more and more difficult to obtain and more limited, Mr. Meimaroglu said, adding that the dollar exchange rate is becoming an important factor in cost creation, affecting the market and competition in different areas. In conclusion, Meimaroglu underlined the general view among all participants that scrap suppliers are currently going as low as they can in terms of prices while still managing to provide steel mills with regular supplies of good quality material. “Scrap exists. But we need real workable prices, allowing us to collect and to deliver properly to our clients,” he concluded.

Representing the Traders’ Committee, F.D. Baysal said that the antidumping petition in the US against rebar imports from Mexico and Turkey has become a major concern for traders as they are worried Turkish and Mexican rebar imports to the US might stop while the investigation is being carried out. Turkish participants at the event, including steel producers and steel exporters, all stated that the dumping claim is groundless and that, even if a decision of injury is reached, dumping margins close to zero will be decided. Furthermore, the Turkish participants, including the Turkish Steel Exporters’ Association, categorically denied that any government incentives were being provided for the Turkish steel industry. Some US-based traders speaking at the Traders’ Committee Meeting expressed their concerns regarding the lack of alternative sources of supply besides Turkey, stating they could not name any supplier country other than Turkey which “can supply rebar in any size, in any grade, in any volume and at any time.”

F.D. Baysal said that traders are expecting scrap prices to go down further for a while and then to stabilize, while iron ore prices are expected to decline for longer than scrap prices. Baysal also mentioned the possibility of an antidumping investigation being launched in the US against wire rod imports.

Ugur Dalbeler, Chairman of the Billet Suppliers’ Committee, said that Turkish billet export prices have not been competitive in recent times due to upward pressure coming from scrap prices, leading to a 40 percent year-on-year decrease in Turkey’s steel billet exports so far in the current year. On the other hand, Dalbeler said that steel billet export suppliers from the CIS have more competitive prices and increased sales to Turkey as a result, also given the higher billet prices in Turkey. Dalbeler stated that the situation in the US market is now good, while the euro zone is reviving slowly in terms of steel market activity. “After a difficult year in 2013, we hope to start seeing those old good days by 2015 and 2016,” he concluded.

Kim Marti, Chairman of the Rebar and Wire Rod Suppliers’ and Producers’ Committees, stated that global rebar and wire rod demand is growing, with further growth also expected next year. Commenting that Europe is emerging from its recession and is witnessing a more positive construction outlook, which will drive steel demand higher, Marti added that the economic outlooks for the US, Europe and Japan are positive and, since these three economies account for more than 70 percent of world GDP, the general outlook for the global economy is considered to be positive. He mentioned that the European mills were adjusting their capacity carefully in line with demand, before going on to say that oversupply is still an overwhelming problem in the world steel industry, with some regions where capacities keep on rising, such as in China. Marti also said that steel markets in the Gulf region, the GCC and more particularly in the UAE are performing quite well.

He also indicated a number of challenges which the steel industry is facing, namely, volatility of prices, overcapacity in the industry, credit restrictions and trade barriers, while also stating that the steel trade is becoming more regionalized.

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