U.S. Steel Canada files for creditor protection

The former Stelco, now a division of U.S. Steel, is in trouble. Creditor protection is the “only option”. This, on the same day as another article proclaims “Canada’s manufacturing sector posted record sales for July and topped expectations as it gained 2.5 per cent”. If they cannot make a profit when manufacturing is good, how will they fair later?

U.S. Steel Canada files for creditor protection | Toronto Star.

Canadian manufacturing sales hit record monthly high | Toronto Star.

Canada lobbies Congress over Buy America

From the Hamilton Spectator (as a steel town newspaper, hardly a bystander in this arena), dated June 9th, 2009

Canada is launching a full court press in the U.S. Congress today against the Buy American provisions in the federal stimulus spending law.

[…]

The action is part of the ongoing campaign by our federal government to get the U.S. government to drop Buy America provisions that force U.S. municipalities and states to use American steel and manufacturing exclusively for projects paid by U.S. taxpayers.

The provisions are believed not to contravene international trade agreements because states and municipalities are sub-national jurisdictions and not subject to trade deals.

Sounds pretty weasily, doesn’t it? Sure we have these NAFTA provisions, and they apply to you, but they don’t apply to our states and municipalities. One wonders how Free Trade can have so many different meanings to different people.

USWA leader hurting Canadians

Keeping the issue of U.S. Steel alive, the Hamilton Spectator published this letter to the editor today. An interesting aspect of the problem I hadn’t considered before.

U.S. Steel bought Stelco and made record profits last year. Then the Americans ruined the world economy and U.S. Steel shut down the Hamilton and Lake Erie works, moved all our orders — including Canadian orders — to Pittsburgh, Alabama and Indiana

[…] what follows is some discussion of how US Steel got around NAFTA rules. But the sting is in the tail

What really hurts is our Canadian-born USWA president Leo Gerard not only backs this “Buy American” approach, but used union dues to lobby Congress to get the protectionist plan passed at the expense of Canadian workers.

If it were not for Gerard, we might be actually working, making steel at Stelco, rather than hoping our EI won’t run out before we start up again.

I don’t know about all of it, but at least part of it is true. Leo Gerard was born and raised in a mining family in Sudbury.

U.S. Steel, feds still at odds

I’d let this issue slip to the back of my mind, but re-reading a fellow steel bloggers recent postings brought it back to mind. It seems the national media have forgotten about this story, but in Hamilton it’s still in people’s minds.

From The Hamilton Spectator TheSpec.com

A single guideline in the Investment Canada Act is “probably the crux” of the dispute between U.S. Steel and the Canadian government, says Industry Minister Tony Clement.

The guideline excuses foreign buyers who are unable to fulfil their commitments under the act due to “factors beyond the control of the investor.”

The question is whether the current economic meltdown qualifies as such a factor in U.S. Steel’s shutdown of the former Stelco.

[…]

Clement sent a demand letter to U.S. Steel earlier this month after determining that the temporary closure of its plants in Hamilton and Nanticoke violates promises made under the act. He is now reviewing a response from the Pittsburgh steelmaker that is “about 87 pages in total.”

But he was tight-lipped about the contents of that document today.

“You’ll be hearing from us very shortly,” he said.

And then, again, the sounds of silence.

Canada warns U.S. Steel about temporary shutdown

When US Steel announced that the former Stelco plant in Hamilton would be shut down “temporarily”, a lot of people were upset and called for action. This seems to be the first step in the action.

From the Canadian Press, via Yahoo Finance News
The Canadian government is warning U.S. Steel it must live up to production commitments at the former Stelco Inc. plants in Ontario.

Industry Minister Tony Clement said he has sent a ‘demand letter’ to the U.S. giant that it’s temporary shutdown at plants in Hamilton and Nanticoke, Ont., may be in violation of commitments it made when it bought the Canadian steel producer in 2007.

[…]

In Clement’s announcement, the minister said the demand letter is the first step in the enforcement process under the Investment Canada Act.

U. S. Steel seeks cause of belching blast furnace

St. Catharines Standard
U. S. Steel Canada is apologetic about its blast furnace belching smoke and coke dust into the air over Hamilton four times in little more than a month.
Spokesman Trevor Harris says the multinational steelmaker that took over Stelco last fall is calling on in-house experts around the world to help local staff and the Ontario Environment Ministry determine what went wrong and how to stop it happening.
‘One of the great benefits of being U. S. Steel Canada (instead of stand-alone Stelco) is that we now have access to expertise from literally around the world to try to rectify the problem.’

Another one bites the dust – Stelco sold

So Stelco has been sold. The last Canadian owned steel mill is gone.

From the Stelco web site:

PITTSBURGH and HAMILTON, ON, Aug. 26, 2007 — United States Steel Corporation and Stelco Inc., announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which U. S. Steel will acquire Stelco for $38.50 (Canadian) in cash per share.

Metinvest says mulling purchase of Stelco

At the beginning of June, Stelco said they were looking for a buyer.

Late last week, this hit the news, but I didn’t get around to reporting it until this week.

Ukraine’s Metinvest confirmed on Friday that it is considering acquiring, or investing in, steelmaker Stelco Inc., but said it has made no firm decision.

Metinvest’s statement followed a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper, citing unnamed sources, that said officials from Metinvest have toured Stelco facilities in the weeks since the steel company put itself up for sale last month.

Stelco is the only big steelmaker in Canada that is still Canadian-owned.

The Globe’s Report on Business, in addition to reporting more or less the same content, had this interesting few paragraphs part way down their article:

Consolidation has swept aside Stelco’s neighbour Dofasco Inc., Essar’s deal for Algoma closed last month, and shareholders will vote on a $7.7-billion (U.S.) buyout of Ipsco Inc. by Svenskt Steel AB later this month.

Those transactions have helped reduce the number of mid-sized, relatively cheap North American steel assets to three.

They are Stelco, AK Steel Holding Corp. of Middletown, Ohio, and a mill near Baltimore, Md., that Mittal Arcelor, the world’s largest steel maker, has been ordered to sell by the U.S. government.

Of course, consolidation of steel suppliers means lack of competition on the supply side, and makes it very hard for small metal stampers to have a say in their own input costs.