SSS 2020: Gerdau bullish on North America, Brazil growth potential

Both the North American and Brazilian markets have strong growth potential stemming from infrastructure-related activity, Gerdau’s global chief financial officer Harley Scardoelli told attendees at Fastmarkets’ 2020 Steel Success Strategies Online conference on Wednesday October 28.

“If you look in 2020, even though we’re going through the stress coming from the Covid-19 situation, the construction market in Brazil has proved to be very resilient,” Scardoelli said.

The Brazilian market - an emerging economy subject to the normal whims of cyclicality - accounts for roughly 40-45% of Gerdau’s business, he said.

“[In] an emerging market, the potential for the growth of steel consumption is very large - both in long and flat production - and we as a company operate in both of those markets,” Scardoelli added.

He noted the housing and infrastructure segments were potential drivers for big growth in steel consumption within Brazil.

Long steel demand within Brazil has significant potential for growth once activity within the construction market increases in the short to medium term, Scardoelli said in a presentation, while calling the flat steel market structurally attractive and expected to show solid growth in domestic demand.

“[The] industry’s starting to recover, so there’s very big potential for growth in Brazil,” he said. “So Brazil, in our view in the next 10 years, is going to be a very relevant market for us.”

North America
In North America, where Gerdau has operations across the United States, Canada and Mexico that account for roughly 35% of the Brazilian steelmaker’s business, Scardoelli was similarly bullish on the prospects for strong steel consumption due to infrastructure investments.

“If you go to North America, steel consumption is very high and we do have what we consider to be a very good potential for growth that can come from investments in infrastructure,” he said. “This is a theme that has been on the agenda of the government for many years but has not been addressed yet.”

The North American market remains attractive to well-positioned participants despite the softening effects of the US Section 232 tariffs, Scardoelli said.

Gerdau operates 10 mills, five downstream locations and 21 scrapyards across North America.

“So we think there’s a big potential, regardless of who wins the [US presidential] election,” Scardoelli added. “We think this is going to be on the agenda of the next administration. This has very big potential for the growth of steel consumption in North America.”

Disruptive factors in the global steel market
Lastly, steel demand should prove resilient in the face of emerging trends within the automotive industry, including autonomy, connectivity, electricification and sharing, with a potential upside driven by hybrid vehicles, Scardoelli said.

“We think steel is going to play a very important role even with those changes,” he added. “The consumption of steel within hybrid cars is very large.”

In terms of the impact that Chinese steel production will have on global supply and demand dynamics, Scardoelli expects a more balanced environment emerging across the world.

“By its sheer size, China of course is a big player in the industry but we don’t think it’s going to be as disruptive as it was in the beginning,” he added.

Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Steel Committee again sounded the alarm over the threat of global excess capacity, noting that while most major steel-producing economies have experienced a significant contraction in steel production this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese production has reached record volumes.

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