Tata chief tells of import threat to European steel industry

Tata Steel Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID
Tata Steel Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID
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Surging imports are hitting a steel company’s trading hopes.

Yet the latest figures show Tata Steel, which employs hundreds of people in Hartlepool, is holding its own in the European sector.

European steel demand is increasing modestly. But imports have grown much faster in recent years and risk undermining Europe’s steel industry

Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations

Statistics for the quarter ending on June 30 show liquid steel production and deliveries both increased by more than seven per cent year-on-year.

But surging EU imports, especially from China, have had an impact.

Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, said: “Market conditions have worsened this year. Our strategy to focus on customers and develop differentiated steel products have helped us stabilise our realisations. We have made good progress in building a comprehensive portfolio of advanced steel products.”

He added: “European steel demand is increasing modestly. But imports have grown much faster in recent years and risk undermining Europe’s steel industry. Imports from China, in particular, have grown at an alarming rate – hot rolled coil shipments from China have been arriving at more than three times the volumes of 2013 – adversely affecting international steel prices.

“Surging imports constitute a threat to European steelmaking.

“Uncompetitive energy costs and the strength of sterling are hurting our UK operations. These three factors caused our first quarter financial performance to deteriorate, despite our more stable production platform as seen in our improved operating performance.”

Tata turnover in the first quarter of this financial year was down, driven by the continued fall in raw materials prices, which dampened realisations.

But bosses say moves to improve costs means the company can increase focus on their added value product and service portfolios.