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A Chinese steel trading house, which plans to buy British Steel, has said it plans to invest in a new plant for speciality steel, creating 2,000 jobs at its site on Teesside.
Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, which on Wednesday received the green light to buy the former steelmaker’s assets after a decade-long wait, has suggested using the Teesside site as a base for manufacturing steam pipes and ropes, it said in a statement.
“We are not the only ones willing to invest in Teesside and our plan is for the plant to be used not only to make steel by traditional means but also to make steel with which we can overcome the global steel crisis,” said Ryugo Okuno, president of Nippon Steel.
“We also plan to use the steel-making facilities of the Teesside plant to produce stainless steel products with electrical conductivity suitable for industrial and other high-tech applications.”
Oleg Korzhov, Nippon Steel’s co-chairman, said his company was ready to make the investment and expand production facilities at the site by 75 per cent by 2025 if the government supports it.
“We want to move forward and increase the production capacity,” he said in an interview with Russian business newspaper Kommersant, “and expand our activities on the market to extend the business not only at our site but the wider market in the world.”
UK chancellor Philip Hammond and trade minister Liam Fox, also in an interview with Kommersant, welcomed the deal as a “very important” step.
While the UK has been hit by plant closures and power shortages, Mr Hammond noted that Nippon Steel was not taking over any of the UK steelmaking business, indicating that the Chinese group is to concentrate on buying services, such as the so-called “follow-on” business for building or maintenance projects.
Mr Hammond said, “We need to make sure that this doesn’t just become a company that concentrates on the next-generation of ... technology; we must bring in ... producers of value added steel.”
Nippon Steel owns mills in Japan, the US and China, as well as one in South Africa. After shutting its Pennsylvania plant in 2006, Nippon Steel had said it would sell its Massachusetts plant, but has not followed through.
Santander, Britain’s largest bank by market capitalisation, and a partner of Nippon Steel, will co-invest in the future facilities with the trading group. A year ago the Spanish bank invested in smaller London-based steel player Evraz.