ArcelorMittal French Fos-sur-mer re-starting steel shipments: sources

Steelmaker ArcelorMittal from its plant in Fos-sur-Mer steel plant in southern France has re-started to ship its products as the strikes in France against the government’s proposed pension reforms are easing, market sources say.

Buyers said that they hadn’t received an official letter revoking the force majeure yet but most of them were receiving products little by little. ArcelorMittal did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the French newspapers and market sources based in France the situation in France has although is likely that another day of strikes will be called again this week. The pension reform bill be discussed in the French parliament on February 17.

In a letter dated January 20 sent to its customers ArcelorMittal declared force majeure due to the “paralysis of the port of Marseille and the Fos operations.”

Fos-sur-Mer produces 4 million mt a year of steel and is one of France’s largest producers of flat steel products.

In addition to current capacity cuts in the European coils market, the disruption in France tightened the market primarily in southern France and Spain, supporting prices. In general coils prices in Europe have risen due to the lack of competition from imports. Buyers, however, continued mainly hand-to-mouth purchasing as end-users still need to accept higher prices. Restocking has been minimal even though stocks were low toward the end of the year.

“No one’s bought anything for a long time and now people need to, and capacity cuts are welcome for mills. I’m surprised that the price is going up further because it is fairly quiet. But the outages at ArcelorMittal are helping,” a stockholder said. Over the past month, the daily Platts TSI index for northern European HRC has moved up Eur32 to Eur468.50/mt EXW Ruhr, while the southern European Platts TSI index rose Eur23.50 over the past month to Eur453/mt EXW S.EU.

On Monday ArcelorMittal Poland announced it would restart an idled blast furnace and steel plant in Krakow mid-March, in an early sign that the European steel market could be rising.

— Annalisa Villa, Laura Varriale