IREPAS in Paris: Long steel players continue to look for opportunities amid ongoing challenges

The 72nd meeting of IREPAS (International Rebar Exporters and Producers Association) was held in Paris, France on March 22-24, 2015. There were 95 producer representatives among the 304 registered delegates from 40 different countries. There were also 39 registrations representing 28 different raw material suppliers.

On the last day of the conference, producers of long steel products and steel billet, as well as traders and raw material suppliers, shared the conclusions reached at their special committee meetings regarding the current situation in the markets with the general participants at the event.

Raw Material Suppliers: Scrap collectors may consolidate for sustainable future         

The chairman of the IREPAS raw material suppliers committee Jens Björkman indicated that scrap supply has found other places to go such as the Arabian Gulf, the Indian peninsula, as well as Turkey since the last IREPAS meeting in autumn 2014.

Mr. Björkman pointed out that the whole supply chain is suffering from overcapacity – from the mills and mines to scrap collectors. He said that some companies have scrap sites that are not profitable and will have to shut down. For a sustainable future, scrap collectors might have to consolidate, he said.

Björkman also pointed out that the domestic supply and demand situation in the US during winter has been tough, with harsh winter conditions affecting scrap collection. Besides, the decline in scrap prices also contributed to the 15 percent reduction in scrap collection. He added that demand in the US has also been affected by lower demand in the gas and oil sectors.

Regarding the EU, the raw material suppliers committee chairman said that demand was subdued but relatively healthy in the last few months, with the weaker euro serving to protect the industry somewhat. Commenting on European Commission restrictions on scrap exports, he said that “it never really gets farther than a discussion point”, adding that there are already obstacles in EU legislation which restrict exports. However, he reiterated that he does not see restrictions going further than that.

Replying to a question on whether major iron ore producers are becoming a monopoly, Mr. Björkman said that these miners want to retain their margins by increasing output, adding that the industry will continue to see high supply for a while before more and more smaller miners start shutting down production.

Traders: Weak euro is a positive signal for trade              

Bernd Neuenkirchen, the chairman of the IREPAS traders committee, said that there were ups and downs in the market which the committee discussed, mentioning North America as a bright spot, in comparison to the EU and other markets. While competition has increased, demand for rebar has not been too bad despite harsh winter conditions, according to the traders committee. Mr. Neuenkirchen also pointed out that the bad weather conditions in the northeastern US did not affect the steel industry as bad as it did last year when demand and GDP experienced a fall due to harsh winter conditions.

The traders committee chairman indicated that the weak euro has certainly changed the picture in the market, and this is a positive thing for traders, meaning there will be a wider range of supply sources, with European mills suddenly coming into picture. Regarding China, Neuenkirchen said that trade actions against China have changed the picture a little bit in the US and Canada, and as a result either China is out of these markets or its volumes are lower. In response to a question on whether US producers will continue to pursue trade action against Turkish rebar exports, he said he believes the US producers will ask for a review.

Producers need to find new opportunities while preserving margins   

Kim Marti, the chairman of both IREPAS and of the IREPAS steel producers committee, stressed that there are three major points for steel producers: the markets are growing, Chinese exports are expected to continue putting pressure on the markets, while big producers are adjusting their production according to market conditions.

Mr. Marti said producers have to find new opportunities, while in the meantime they also have to preserve margins by adjusting production. He said that, regarding the EU, its economy is expected to grow by 1.5 percent and customers are financially healthy, thereby increasing the possibilities for business. The IREPAS chairman indicated that Turkey is involved in intense competition with China, while it is challenged by low demand in neighboring countries, such as Iraq and Syria, due to political unrest. Turkish exporters have been finding alternative markets in Africa and South America.

Looking at South America, Brazil is suffering a little bit because of political uncertainty, while other countries in the region are enjoying healthy conditions. Mr. Marti also said that seven percent GDP growth is expected in the Philippines, while construction in the country is growing as well. He added that the country needs 150,000 mt of billet per month, and with new production capacities coming on line the country will be self-sufficient.

Leave A Comment