EU steelmakers increase slab sales on lack of Ukrainian material

Italian re-rollers and Eastern European platemakers are continuing to seek alternative slab suppliers within the EU since deliveries of the semi-finished product from Ukraine have become disrupted.

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The flow of material from Ukrainian mills was interrupted in August due to military action in the east of the country between government forces and pro-Russia rebels.

ArcelorMittal Europe, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp, Sweden’s SSAB and Sahaviriya Steel Industries UK (SSI UK) have been considered as alternative suppliers of slab, sources said.

The number of inquiries started to increase in the second quarter of the year, when steel producers dependent on Ukrainian slab “became anxious about the situation in Ukraine”, a source at SSAB said last week.

During the summer, despite the “traditional slowdown in the EU slab market”, requests steadily increased. And since August, sales of slabs have risen and “some more plates have been sold”, according to the source.

SSAB boosted its sales of both semi-finished products and plates to Europe and Turkey on the lack of Ukrainian material, the same source said.

SSI UK has also increased its slab sales to the EU since Ukraine stopped supplying in August, according to two sources.

However, a significant growth in supply volumes is “questionable as SSI’s slab price is high”, another source said.

SSI UK declined to comment other than to confirm that Europe is its “regular outlet market”.

Meanwhile, ThyssenKrupp has not increased slab output due to continuous maintenance at blast furnace No2 at its Duisburg site, according to two sources.

“One Italian mill asked ThyssenKrupp for slabs, but without success. There are no available volumes,” another source said.

Semi-finished products from ArcelorMittal’s plants in Eastern Europe had been considered as possible replacements for Ukrainian slabs at Poland’s Huta Czestochowa, owned by Ukraine’s Industrial Union of Donbass (ISD).

However, Huta Czestochowa has instead decided to launch production at its own electric arc furnace (EAF), a source at the mill told Steel First on Monday October 20.

ArcelorMittal Europe is supplying limited volumes of semi-finished material to Polish re-rollers Huta Batory and Huta Pokoj, the same source said.

“There have hardly been any ArcelorMittal slab sales outside of the [ArcelorMittal] group,” another source said.

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