U.S. Steel is not discussing a possible sale of its Košice steel plant with any potential buyers, Vice Prime Minister for Investments Peter Pellegrini said after talks with representatives of the company.
“The top U.S. Steel representatives have confirmed that there’s no offer on the table at the moment worth any official talks about a possible sale of U.S. Steel Košice to another buyer,” said Pellegrini after their regular meeting as cited by the TASR newswire.
Economy Minister Peter Žiga recalled that in case the company decides to sell its Košice plant the Slovak government does not have any legislative tools to enter the process of the sale in any other way. Simultaneously he would not like to see a kind of a non-standard subject to become an owner of the steel plant. Thus he can imagine that in such a case the Slovak government would be interested in a share in the company.
“I can imagine also such a form of negotiations, i.e. that we would get a foot in the door and obtain … a share of the steel plant and participate either in management of the company or in its social policy,” Žiga said as cited by TASR, adding that 34 percent in the company would secure for the state the ability to influence activities of the majority owner.
Members of the Slovak cabinet and representatives of U.S. Steel Košice (USSK) met on May 4 at a regular session to discuss meeting of the memorandum they signed back in 2013. In it USSK promised to remain in Košice and maintain its employment levels until 2018, while the government promised to help cut the firm’s energy and environmental bills.
Pellegrini sees regulations of the memorandum as being met from both sides.
The company employs more than 11,000 people, despite dismissing 29 employees in April and another 29 in May – 30 being the number that requires advance notice to the local labour office of a mass lay-off.
The trend in the sector of cold-rolled steel products is improving, said Pellegrini, adding that this means that if USSK manages to keep volumes it has planned for this year and prices will gradually increase as is the trend of the last few weeks, then this might be good news for Slovakia. According to Pellegrini, the group was forced into serious restructuring steps and it ousted 7,000 people overseas during the recent months.
The USSK management told cabinet representatives about their intention to continue in investing in various projects within the company.
“Capital expenditures worth several hundreds of millions of euros have been introduced for this year which indicates the intention to continue their production in eastern Slovakia and remain an important employer in Košice region,” said Pellegrini.
Finance Minister Peter Kažimír recalled that USSK reached very good results in terms of profit and production volume last year. Globally, the steel industry is facing huge problems which won’t be resolved in Bratislava or in Košice, but maybe in Brussels, he said.
“One third of the planned investments in the whole group of U.S. Steel heads to Košice and this is a real proof of continuation and maintaining stable employment in the plant,” said Kažimír.