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BIR Ferrous Metals World Mirror December 2012

Global – The following article is based on the latest Ferrous World Mirror produced by the BIR world recycling organisation for the benefit of its members.

While many steel producers are struggling hugely with heavy debts and empty order books, the steel recycling industry is confronted with its own list of difficulties, laments BIR Ferrous Division President Christian Rubach of TSR Recycling. These also include debt burdens, as well as weak scrap consumption and capacity utilisation rates, and write-offs for expansion investments during the boom period of 2003 to 2008. Under these circumstances, exports of scrap to consistent buyers such as Turkey will represent ‘€˜a kind of life insurance’€™, he says.

Echoing Mr Rubach’€™s observations about the difficulties engulfing the scrap industry’€™s customer base, Blake Kelley of US-based Sims Metal Management notes that the 80 steelmaking members of the China Iron and Steel Association reported losses for August this year of US$ 669 million; indeed, many of them incurred deficits through the first three quarters of 2012. But on a more positive, he adds, China has recently re-entered the deep-sea bulk scrap import market in some force after a long absence.

In his EU market report, EFR President Tom Bird of Van Dalen Recycling UK also highlights the welcome continuation of active overseas scrap buying by Turkish mills, going on to contend that the final quarter of 2012 ‘€˜should prove to be better than the previous three quarters’€™. With the onset of winter, prices in the EU markets ‘€˜should remain relatively stable and not fall further’€™, he adds.

However, Hisatoshi Kojo of Metz Corporation in Japan argues that over-capacity in the steel industry – most notably in China – is likely to apply a cap to steel product values, and therefore scrap prices, in the next few months. Finished steel price increases ‘€˜cannot be expected until next spring at the earliest’€™, he contends.

China’€™s expansion on the international steel market has exerted significant pressure on Russian steelmakers, according to Andrey Moiseenko of Ukrmet Ltd. He also reports the formation of Russia’€™s first independent association of scrap processors – to be known as RUSLOM.COM – which, it is hoped, will ‘€˜become the real voice of the Russian recycling industry in its dealings with government officials’€™.

Mr Moiseenko also notes that a lack of quotas has virtually eliminated the Ukraine’€™s exports of steel scrap, with ‘€˜only a few vessels’€™ loaded since August. But here too, he is hopeful that, following recent elections, the situation will be resolved before year-end.

Zain Nathani of the Nathani Group of Companies points out that the earlier list of approved inspection agencies in India is now invalid; as a result, customs authorities will not permit the clearance of containers if an old inspection agency has issued a pre-shipment inspection certificate dated on or after September 22.

The country’€™s Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) will hold regular reviews in a bid to add new agencies to the list which meet the revised criteria. The Metal Recycling Association of India and BIR are working with the DGFT ‘€˜to ensure larger numbers of inspection agencies are approved so that all scrap exporting zones are well covered’€™, Mr Nathani adds.

In his update of ‘€˜World Steel Recycling in Figures’€™ for January-June this year, BIR Ferrous Division Statistics Advisor Rolf Willeke also highlights the fact that Turkey has remained a strong importer of scrap despite the various pressures within the steel marketplace. The country’€™s overseas purchases jumped 13.4% to 11.343 million tonnes in the first half of the year while the Republic of Korea increased its imports by 22.2% over the same period to 5.168 million tonnes.

China, meanwhile, bought in 2.799 million tonnes for a year-on-year increase of 0.8%. On the downside, import reductions were reported for Taiwan (-4.3% to 2.59 million tonnes), Thailand (-6.1% to 1.036 million tonnes), the EU-27 (-5.4% to 1.817 million tonnes), Malaysia (-12.5% to 883 000 tonnes) and Indonesia (-19.9% to 804 000 tonnes).

US steel scrap exports fell 7.6% to 11.28 million tonnes in the same January-June period despite an increase of more than 23% in Turkey’€™s purchases from this source to 3.306 million tonnes. Overall EU exports surged 12.7% to 10.325 million tonnes, with Turkey laying claim to 5.57 million tonnes of the total for an increase of 11.6%.

China slashed its scrap purchases from the USA (-44.9% to 1.149 million tonnes) and from the EU (-41.4% to 279 000 tonnes) but increased its imports from Japan by 42% to 1.482 million tonnes.

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