Klöckner: Back to normal will take one/two years

German steel distribution group Klöckner & Co believes that it will take more than a year until business returns to where it was before the coronavirus crisis.

“My prognosis is one to two years until the global value-added chains are back to functionality and consumers spend money as they used to,” Klöckner’s ceo, Gisbert Rühl says in an interview with Handelsblatt. The company is maintaining operations, but Rühl notes that “… the coming weeks will be very hard,” because the consumer chain is coming apart. Klöckner therefore has introduced short-working at most of its sites.

Unlike in France where steel distribution has stalled, the steel distribution sector In Germany could in fact continue to operate. Other major companies however appear reluctant to provide details to what extent operations are being reduced or, indeed, if any interruption to services is imminent.

Some smaller plate distributors tell Kallanish that they feel no impediment to business so far, but, as one concedes, “… we are looking from week to week and will see what April will bring.” Another one is more pessimistic in outlook: “I have the impression that the market is suspended in a state of shock, and everyone is looking ahead to what the state of the epidemic will be after Easter,” the source says.

It is striking that none of Germany’s big steel distribution groups are offering an update on any business disruptions on their homepages. Austria distributor Frankstahl presents an upbeat attitude in its customer bulletin. “Many customers are positively surprised that we are still available. And in fact, we are,” it says, and directs customers to its webshop “… which gives you access [… to products] even in times of social distancing.”