Northwest European plate prices to inch up

Plate prices from northwest Europe mills have largely reached bottom, with observers believing current levels will not be undercut any further. The rebound is expected to be gentle, however.

The low point for standard grade S355 is largely seen at around €950/tonne ($1,026), “little more, little less”, as a northern German distributor puts it. One mill-owned distributor, however, says he had lower quotes of “above €900”, without being specific. But he also expresses sympathy for mills for their high energy costs which he says will make higher prices necessary.

“It won’t leap up by €100 that soon, but the bottom is reached,” he tells Kallanish. “For energy costs, we have avoided the worst case, but they are still bad enough for mills to need to return to a four-digit figure.” Prices of €1,000/t might not be seen for several weeks, but will come later in the first quarter, he is sure.

One visible factor is stretching lead times. “Before Christmas, you could still get newly rolled material in a matter of 3-4 weeks. If I order today, it will rather be 6-8 weeks, and can easily take into early Q2,” he observes. One German mill only re-started post-holiday rolling activity in the middle of last week, he notes.

Towards late last year, prices seemed to differ widely, with some mills still heard charging up to €1,050. According to the northern manager, these were deterrent offers from prime mills that were well-utilised with orders for higher-grade material. “They quoted so for the sake of not refusing altogether, but it showed that they had little interest using their capacities for commodity grade,” he explains.

Christian Koehl Germany