ArcelorMittal is preparing to hot idle its Taranto plant in Italy and is not accepting any more orders at the facility, instead fulfilling them at other group mills in Germany and elsewhere, buyers said today.
The company notified the government yesterday of its intention to withdraw from the lease agreement for its ex-Ilva assets.
Opinion is increasingly split on whether the company is pursuing a negotiating tactic or getting ready to exit the loss-making operation. The firm has declined to comment.
With the mandated shutdown of blast furnace 2 at the site next month, ArcelorMittal would be unable to meet its industrial plan of producing 6mn t/yr. And the precedent set for that blast furnace could have implications for the other furnaces at the site, with many local stakeholders wanting a cessation of the hot-end at Taranto.
These, as well as the removal of legal safeguards, remain major issues for the company even if the government returns to the negotiating table.
With the recent disruption, buyers are having orders fulfilled from Bremen in Germany, Fos-sur-Mer in France and other plants.
Some suggest they are increasingly concerned over material availability given potential further production reductions in the depressed European market. Traders reported an uptick in enquiry levels in the past day.
There is a growing expectation in the marketplace that mills and traders will use these factors, alongside a recent uptick in import offers, to push for higher prices. There is already talk of one leading mill targeting increases of €30-40/t, but a source close to the producer denied such a move.
But local mill lead times are short and most seem to have availability for fairly prompt deliveries.