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Outokumpu reports mixed stainless demand picture

Global – Stainless steel demand has improved from its year-end 2014 lows but the outlook for the first quarter varies by region, states sector major Outokumpu in its latest annual accounts bulletin.

In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, ′order intake is improving and underlying demand remains relatively healthy′ whereas the Asian market has remained ′soft′ at the beginning of the year, the company notes. In the Americas, meanwhile, market conditions remain ′promising′ overall but the pace of placing new orders is ′somewhat subdued′ given uncertainty over the nickel price.

Globally, real demand for stainless steel climbed 5.5% last year, with consumption up 4.7% in the Americas and 3.8% in Europe, the company points out. Of total consumption in 2014, the share taken by imports into the EU reached 30.6% while the figure for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) region was 18.9%. In 2014, company profitability was ′clearly improved′, according to Outokumpu’s ceo Mika Seitovirta.

But despite completion of the technical ramp-up of its Calvert mill in the US state of Alabama, technical issues and delivery performance challenges in the second half of the year meant that the company ′cannot be entirely satisfied with the speed of our progress′, he says. ′Since the beginning of January, all cold rolling lines have been back in operation, and we expect Coil Americas to step up its performance this year.′

As a result of a ′seamless co-operation′ between Calvert and the cold rolling mill in Mexico, Outokumpu increased its US market share from 15% to 18% last year, and from 20% to 22% for the entire NAFTA market.

Worldwide, its stainless steel deliveries for the full year were down slightly at 2.554 million tonnes from 2.585 million tonnes in 2013.

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