EU plate prices hike further on availability concerns

European plate prices continued to rise March 18, and reduced availability of material put prices under high pressure.

Plate was consistently described by sources as the most in-demand product on the day, with a trader source describing the material as “gold dust.”

Guaranteed delivery of ordered material was reported as paramount, reflected in mill contracts. The trader source described force majeure provisions as having doubled in length from those before the war in Ukraine, now covering multiple pages within contracts.

With prices rising to historical levels March 18, one mill source described several factors for hikes in tradable levels.

“The first and most obvious reason is disruption to slab supply,” the source said. “Some EU mills had more dependence on CIS area slab than others, but most are affected in some way.”

The source also added that some markets, such as those in Belgium, Spain and Poland, were exposed in the short-term on sold material, requiring alternative sources to cover agreed deals. While import offers were priced competitively, long lead times meant sources considered them unworkable in covering for short-term exposures.

Finally, high energy prices were heard as playing a large role in historic plate prices. Natural gas, used to re-roll slab into plate, was reported to have hiked in price dramatically following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Feb. 24.

Deals were reported in the week ended March 18 in south Europe at Eur1,700/mt ex-works Italy, with near-term offers heard as high as Eur2,000/mt ex-works Italy on the day.

A northern service center source reported attempts to substitute cut-to-length coil for thinner plate formats.

Platts assessed North European plate at Eur1,775/mt ex-works Ruhr March 18 and South European plate at Eur1,700/mt ex-works Italy, with both products seeing Eur200 increases on week, according to data from S&P Global Commodity Insights.

— Benjamin Steven