Monday, October 26, 2020

Cleveland-Cliffs has bought ArcelorMittal for $3.3b and Blast Furnace Obsolescence

I recognize the name Cleveland-Cliffs because they owned ore ships on the Great Lakes. They also owned iron mines from which they hauled the ore.

Free Eyes FM posted
Here is another museum ship that I drew which is William G. Mather.
She was built in 1925 by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan, as the flagship for the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company She remained an active part of the Cliffs' fleet until the end of the 1980 navigation season.
William G. Mather led a convoy of 13 freighters in early 1941 through the ice-choked Upper Great Lakes to Duluth, Minnesota, setting a record for the first arrival in a northern port. This heroic effort was featured on April 28, 1941 issue of Life. She was one of the first commercial Great Lakes vessels to be equipped with radar in 1946. In 1964, she became the very first American vessel to have an automated boiler system, manufactured by Bailey Controls of Cleveland, Ohio.
On December 10, 1987, Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. donated the steamer William G. Mather to the Great Lakes Historical Society to be restored and preserved as a museum ship and floating maritime museum. Fire damage to William G. Mather's galley and after cabin spaces required a major restoration effort.
After 10 years of negotiations, the City Of Cleveland, represented by Mayor Jane L. Campbell signed a 40-year lease on June 15, 2003, allowing William G. Mather to stay at its East 9th Street berth.
[SS William G. Mather Museum]
Frederick Miller III shared

Cleveland-Cliffs had already bought AK Steel in March 2020 for $1.1b. [amm

The $3.3b consists of $500m cash, $900m equity and $1.9b debt assumption. (I've seen figures between $3.3b and $3.5b with the variability in the debt part.)

safe_image for FOX8
Johnny Bee: I work in Burns Harbor and today [Sep 28,2020] was the first any of us had heard about this. Crazy
Ryan MX Murphy: Vertical integration is how you prevent national capital goods from becoming cheap commodities in today's world
[AM's press release and CC's press release]

AM's press release:
  • $900m of the 1.4b is stock so AM will benefit from CC's improvements by reducing costs $150m annually from synergistic potential. (My understanding is that "synergistic potential" is an euphemism for laying off people with redundant jobs.)
  • CC will assume liabilities of 500m working capital and $1.5b of pensions and other post-employment benefits (OPEB).
  • Thanks to NAFTA, AM can still sell to the US market with its plants in Canada and Mexico and supply AM/NS Calvert [non-union] in Alabama, which it did not sell.
  • AM retains the research and development office in East Chicago. [also NWItimes-Sep28]
  • AM will use the $500m cash to buy back shares to redistribute the cash to shareholders. I presume the Mittals own a lot of shares.
  • "In 2019, ArcelorMittal USA had revenues of $9.9 billion and total steel shipments of 12.5 million short tonnes."
CC's press release:
  • CC will be the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America, with combined shipments of approximately 17 million net tons in 2019.
  • The company will also be the largest iron ore pellet producer in North America, with 28 million long tons of annual capacity.
  • Highly synergistic transaction with clear line of sight to achievement of approximately $150 million of estimated annual cost savings. (CC's way of saying they are going to layoff redundant jobs. Maybe even close redundant mills.)
  • I have no idea what some of the statements mean such as: "Deleveraging transaction creates a more resilient, pro-forma balance sheet."

NWItimes-Sep28 via Facebook
ArcelorMittal USA employs about 10,000 steelworkers in Northern Indiana. The Chicago-based steel subsidiary employs more than 18,000 people across the country in 15 states, 12 of which have industrial operations. Reuters has estimated its U.S. assets to be worth $2 billion to $3 billion.
[Comments speculate that AK mills will take the brunt of the consolidations when the closures start.]

Richard Allison shared
I did not see this coming but Lakshmi Mittal probably agonized on selling it's USA operations but on the other hand the pandemic and other external issues made it a no brainer to sell because Mittal is looking at future growth in India and Asia. I think the Paris Accord of no carbon steel by 2050 might bring a sale of steel mills in Europe, especially high cost plants in Spain, Poland and possibly their new acquisition in Italy. I see also Cleveland-Cliffs acquiring a huge pink elephant in ArcelorMittal USA in which the large scale of the business will challenge their business decision. In the long term, I see Cleveland-Cliffs shutting down a significant part of AM-USA plants and not selling these units but to shut them down so that customers could be retained and shifting orders to the stronger plants. I also see Cliffs being overwhelmed with blast furnaces and there will be major shifts in primary production. Losers will probably be AK's Dearborn blast furnace, possibly Cleveland Works and older blast furnaces at Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor... There will be for sure some blood letting.....
Steve Oberhaus: Or swapping for EAF since we'll be making HBI [hot briquetted iron]
Ross Patterson: Wow thanks for the encouraging words about Cleveland.
Richard Allison: It is reality. It is sad but the Cleveland blast furnaces will be done within 10 years since Mittal pulled the rug out from the US operations. Mittal plans to compete against his former operations from Mexico and Canada. That gives me heartburn.
Richard Allison: That [#7 in Indiana Harbor] used to be Inland Madline No.7, the largest in North America. The second largest was Bethlehem/Servestal/ArcelorMittal L Furnace- Sparrows Point, MD and has been torn down. The fourth newest furnace in the US was USS-Fairfield Works No.8 Blast Furnace, torn down.
Christopher J Shoppa: Richard Allison correction, #7 at the old Inland Steel plant in East Chicago Indiana is the largest furnace in North America and #14 at US Steel in Gary Indiana is second largest...both are in Indiana.
Brendan Brosnan: The BF at Rouge Mi, former Rouge/Severstal was rebuilt completely about 2010. Severstal built a totally new furnace on a platform and after completion rolled onto the old hearth. I have photo but can’t access them right now.
Richard Allison: You are all hearing your plants are the lowest cost producer from the blast furnace/BOF route but Nucor came in and changed the rules. EAFs come in under all the integrated producers by at least $50/ton and more. Why do you think Mittal sold the US operations if they were low cost. US mills after taxes and depreciation are much higher cost than Canadian and Mexican steel. Nobody is going to build a blast furnace in the US. The EAF is going to bury integrated mills with blast furnaces. I am not an advocate of that and I am for making the blast furnace route competitive but EAFs are being built and taking over and with DRI, they can make almost all grades of steel. Even though the US is not a signatory of the Paris Agreement, the rest of the world is going by the agreement and these countries will not accept US steel products for import without a carbon tax after 2030. There is a reason Mittal dumped US plants. I never seen this coming and I am shocked. I see pain ahead with Cleveland Cliffs making lots of changes for the stockholders. I am retired and I wish all of you working that this buyout works out and wish the best for you all.
Chris Jeleniewski: Richard Allison you can't get long grain outside automotive quality parts from an EAF and a 2-3 inch slab. Sorry, that requires an integrated mill and an 8 inch slab. No arguing with physics.
[More comments about blast furnaces vs. EAFs.]
[Dearborn's blast furnace was rebuilt 10 years ago, and its only customer is AK Middletown.]
Benjamin Haas: 7 blast really insulates Indiana Harbor from cuts. Burns Harbor is supposed to be completing their brand new walking beam furnace later this year I believe as well. I work at IHW and since the sale apparently didn’t include Lakshmi’s new shiny toy in the Calvert mill where they’re also putting in that new EAF it makes one wonder if we’ll still have orders going to Alabama.
Richard Allison: Calvert will be getting slabs from ArcelorMittal-Lazardo Cardenas Mexico. Not only Mexican labor is cheap but the slabs are made from large EAFs. I wonder if the new EAF at Calvert can make steel as cheap as Lazardo Cardenas.
Richard Allison: I don't know if anyone noticed the price of the transaction but Cleveland-Cliffs bought out Arcelormittal USA for only $1.4 billion dollars. Mittal sold almost the entire US operations for almost nothing just to get rid of it. I can't believe Mittal sold it so cheap. Last year, ArcelorMittal bought a one mill in Italy for this price. In this transaction, Cleveland-Cliffs bought three huge mills and a hand full of minimills for a cheap price. It seems to me Mittal was glad to get rid of these old plants at any price. I think it would be naive to think Cleveland-Cliffs will operate these mills with no changes. I think they will look at the medium term and consolidate and shut down duplicate facilities. There will be lots of white collar jobs cut in a hurry. Just wait and integrating AK with AM USA will be looked at and the same thing will happen if there are duplicate facilities, they will either be combined or shut down. There will be major changes soon.
Frank Newton: Having some friends working in the Gary Works they are concerned that Gary Works will start to show the lack of and poor maintenance practices the past 3-5 years might soon show . They still shake their heads of the $200 million cost of the failed synthetic coke project that management cost the company a few years ago at Gary Works . Time will tell . The country needs them both.
Richard Allison: Frank Newton I never could understand USS psychology. They were always the last to change to new technologies. Also, why would they have their own plants compete with each other rather than their plants compete with other steel companies. I know this to be true because USS would discourage customers to buy Fairfield steel and would put a surcharge on that steel and if bought from Gary or Mon Valley, no surcharge was charged. Since Fairfield Works is now mostly neutered by being only a seamless pipe mill with no orders and a new EAF that does not work yet, Granite City is the new stepchild. Maybe CC will take them over too.

‼️ Cleveland-Cliffs to Buy ArcelorMittal USA ‼️
Your thoughts? What do you think?
Randy LeWolf Poignant: Mittal had the Hennepin plant shut down and gutted so it wouldn't run again, then it was blown up and scraped. It still held world records. It ran steel cheaper than all others.
[Some comments agree that all of the blast furnaces in America are now owned either by US Steel or CC. At least they are once again owned by a USA company.]
Dave McGinnis: This with the $1 billion new HBI plant in Toledo still not running? CC are big players alright.
Roy Diotte: Not a great thing for Algoma when their main iron ore supplier buys their own steel company. Contract or no contract who do you think will get first preferences when it comes to supply and quality.
Richard Leclerc: Algoma Steel Inc. (Algoma Steel) announced today they have signed a new four-year iron ore pellet purchase agreement with United States Steel Corporation. The contract replaces contracts that expire at the end of this year and provides Algoma Steel with surety of supply of quality iron ore pellets through to the close of the 2024 shipping season.

Richard Allison shared an amm link with the comment:
I see that Steelworkers Locals in northern Indiana are endorsing the sale of ArcelorMittal USA to Cleveland-Cliffs. I still think that with all these facilities, there will have to be changes because of duplication of services. I don't see how everything can remain the same, whether for better or for worse. It seems like Mittal was eager to sell off the USA steel company because it was sold for only $ 1.4 billion dollars. It seems to cheap to me..... Cleveland-Cliffs might have a difficult road ahead. I just hope this does not become another LTV or ISG venture.....
[The comments indicate that ISG was good for Burns Harbor.]
Ryan MX Murphy
Some analysts are predicting the next decade will be favorable for commodity suppliers (ore mining, coke, etc.).
CCs vertical integration (V-I) model makes not only a manufacturer, but their size will also make customers out of their competitors...which could have the same upward pressure on prices IF CC nears monopoly power.
V-I is the model Putin explicitly uses in Russia and is the de facto management model used by the CCP as well (WEWS-TV aired a 2018 interview w/ Goncalves where he uses words to the effect of calling China an 'enemy in a war--not a just trade war...')
The buyout may make CC larger than USS, depending on if revenue or tonnage is the metric. The monopoly risk is that bad actors might only need to corrupt an even smaller number of people in order to take control of a vital national capital good industry.
Robert Brady: He kept his new state of the art mill in mexico. Calvert and the Canadian mills. With the new nafta. He is in a great position. My question is. Who got the patents of all the exotic high strength steel we are running and in trials with?
Jeff La Belle: Wait till the new company sees how poorly Arcelormittal has maintained there facilities. They will have to spend major money fixing and upgrading them.
Brian Olson: When you look at all of the facilities that will make up Cleveland Cliffs Steel the most likely candidate for closure is the Middletown's primary end and maybe Indiana Harbor West. The blast furnaces at these facilities are of a very old vintage. I have to believe that Cleveland Cliffs will eventually install an EAF shop at their Toledo DRI plant to supply slabs to the modern hot mill at Middletown. I seriously doubt that the minimills will want to buy HBI from their competitor.
[There are several interesting comments by Richard Allison concerning Dearborn, Middletown and Hennepin. And Brian confirms that US Steel transports coke from Clairton to Gary.]
David Butts: This gives them another tin mill and strong position in an area. Building 4 ethane cracker facilities. The ancillary business following that is in the 10s of billions. I don't think they are done in the acquisition phases either.

According to Cliffs' figures, the “big four” flat-rolled steelmakers following the deal - and based on 2019 flat-rolled shipments - will be:

  • Cliffs: 16.5 million tons
  • Nucor: 12.7 million tons
  • U.S. Steel: 10.7 million tons
  • Steel Dynamics Inc (SDI): 7.7 million tons
On the flat-rolled steelmaking side, Cliffs will acquire the following operations in the Great Lakes region:
  • Indiana Harbor (Indiana): The largest integrated steelmaking complex in North America, with a steelmaking capacity of about 7.4 million tons per year
  • Burns Harbor (Indiana): Capacity of approximately 5 million tpy
  • Cleveland (Ohio): Capacity of approximately 3.8 million tpy
  • Riverdale (Illinois): Compact strip mill with an annual capacity of about 1 million tpy
Cliffs will go from supplying approximately 18% of the US automotive sheet market to accounting for 41% of that supply once the deal for ArcelorMittal USA is closed. And it will control 61% of US blast furnace pellet capacity, with U.S. Steel accounting for the remaining 39%.

While Cliffs will remain primarily an integrated steelmaker, the transaction will more than double its EAF capacity with the acquisition of the following EAFs:
  • Coatesville (Pennsylvania): Steel plate mill, with a steelmaking capacity of about 1 million tpy
  • Steelton (Pennsylvania): Steel rail mill, with a steelmaking capacity of about 1 million tpy
The deal also increases the possibility that Cliffs will produce merchant pig iron in the future. Cliffs said in a presentation about the acquisition that its Ashland Works facility in Kentucky could be used as “a potential pig iron plant.”
The agreement will also provide Cliffs with a captive audience for production from its hot-briquetted iron (HBI) plant in Toledo, Ohio.

[amm, paycount?]
Some comments on a post:
Robert Brady: The two plants in my opinion that are safe in this sale. Are Burns Harbor and Cleveland. Both make a profit. And Cleveland just got a big upgrade on their hdgl to run a exotic high strength steel.
Calum Learn: Coatesville has a safe spot too given their heavy plate capacity and government contracts.
Calum Learn: I was curious if the new merger will wander into monopoly territory for Cliffs? That is what happened when Mittal bought ISG they owned too much flat roll capacity and had to sell off Sparrows Point and look what happened there. It was a modern mill designed very similar to IH East and Burns Harbor. [I wondered why one of the largest blast furnaces in USA got torn down.]
Nathan Howe: Burns harbor isn’t going anywhere.
Richard Warner: Nathan Howe that’s what all the mill workers thought around Pittsburgh too. They’ll tell you the same thing I’m telling you. Fairless Hills shut down, Bethlehem shut down, Sparrows Point shut down, J&L and LTV shut down, Weirton shut down, Wheeling Pitt shut down, River Rouge shut down, how many more big plants do I need to name before you realize Burns Harbor is just another mill that will shut down?? Open your mind and your eyes before you end up like all the rest.

A post that contains a link to a video of the CC CEO. I did not view the video. I trust upper management about as much as I trust politicians. I quit going to department meetings at Bell Labs during the second half of my career.

There are too many comments on this post to extract. The density of information makes accessing the link worthwhile. A comment by Matt Cawley is worth noting because he says that Cleveland already uses natural gas instead of coke for energy. The hydrogen in the gas extracts more iron from the ore. And burning gas reduces the carbon footprint of the furnace.

I hope a duopoly doesn't give the USA steel industry so much power that they kill the USA auto industry and, consequently, themselves. I'm reminded that a tariff on sugar did not save the USA farmers because many of the candy companies moved to other countries. [NWItimes post]

While mini-mills have taken over much of the construction business, integrated mills like those along the lakeshore in Northwest Indiana have survived because they make the higher grades of steel used by the automotive industry and the tin plate business. "There's less competition for the automobile industry, which has higher requirements for its steel," he said. "Electric arc furnaces have nitrogen and scrap contaminants. A lot of work has been done to improve them. But the mini-mills haven't been able to make that grade of steel."

AM Viewgraphs

Does the retention of the East Chicago R&D office mean that they also retained all of the patents for higher strength rolled steel? Does the $1b equity investment in CC mean they won't use the lower labor costs of Mexico and Canada to beat up CC too badly in USA? This confirms that they retained the pipe manufacturing facilities.
AM Viewgraphs

This is from their pre-sale web site.
2019 Report Map via Glance

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