Stahl Gerlafingen ponders closure of production line

Production of merchant bar and beams in Switzerland might soon be history, as Stahl Gerlafingen, part of Beltrame group, plans to shut down one of its two rolling lines. The firm cites distorted competition in the European steel market for Swiss suppliers, as Switzerland is not an EU member and therefore affected by safeguard measures.

In a statement sent to Kallanish upon request, the company bemoans a de-facto export ban by the EU since mid-2023 and also criticises the EU for financial support measures it grants to EU mills. “Our exports of merchant bar, which in the past generated good revenue and margins, have been effectively banned by the EU, regardless of the free trade agreement between Switzerland and the EU,” the statement reads.

It also cites high costs for power in Switzerland, highlighting the particularly high grid fees, which have contributed to pushing the company into the red. Stahl Gerlafingen’s main product is actually rebar, which comprises more than two thirds of its annual output of up to 700,000 tonnes, but this product is not mentioned in the statement.

The management, headed by Alain Creteur, is now pondering the closure of one rolling line, and is talking to local policy-makers to jointly find a solution. “From a commercial point of view, a closure of one line is unavoidable, but it would also mean the loss of many jobs,” he says.

Policy-makers on the regional and national level are currently in discussion to find a solution, so the company has postponed its closure decision, in agreement with the Beltrame family. It notes that the melt shop and other main facilities would not be affected by such a decision.

Last weekend, local newspapers cited Swiss economy minister Guy Parmelin as saying that the government is in “intense” talks over Stahl Gerlafingen. However, he also noted that he does not consider the steel industry in Switzerland to be “systemically relevant”, contrary to Stahl Gerlafingen’s claim.

Christian Koehl Germany