U.S. Steel seems to be departing

What many have already anticipated for several months is becoming reality, the Slovak media writes.

(Source: Courtesy of USSK)

U.S. Steel Košice, the Slovak plant of the US steel giant and the biggest employer in the east, is going to change hands. After 17 years, U.S. Steel seems ready to quit the factory, despite insisting that the information on the possible change of owner is speculation and rumour, the Pravda daily wrote.

The government is being informed about the current situation at U.S. Steel directly from the American owner of the Košice steelworks, Prime Minister Robert Fico said after the cabinet session on January 24. However, he refused to comment on information currently leaking from negotiations concerning the possible sale of the steel giant, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

“Slovak government did a great deal in the past to maintain steel production in Košice; a memorandum was signed between the government and U.S. Steel,” Fico noted. “I’d prefer U.S. Steel to remain in Slovakia. The firm is fully in the hands of the foreign holder and it’s up to the owners to decide what they will or won’t do with this company,” the prime minister summed up. According to the prime minister, the attitude of U.S. Steel is correct, and the cabinet has been informed about a possible sale.

Fico further stated that if it is clear that U.S. Steel is leaving Slovakia and that it wants to sell the Košice steelworks, the state can start negotiating in this regard. He added that Slovakia might try to buy some kind of stake in the company. “No one will give us a majority stake, but we’ll try to put our foot in this company’s door,” he said.

Much will depend on negotiations, as such a large company cannot operate without state assistance, PM said. “They have to communicate with the state about many issues, so I think that when it comes to the fact that a new owner will come to Košice and be interested in negotiating with the state, we’ll try to take advantage of this moment to strengthen the position of the state [in the steelworks],” he added, according to TASR

There are basically two main aspects in which the state, as well as the Ministry of Economy, will be interested in if U.S. Steel is sold to a new owner – to keep production in Košice and to maintain the employment rate in the region, according to Economy Ministry State Secretary Vojtech Ferencz.

U.S. Steel Košice trade union leader Mikuláš Hintoš confirmed for TASR on January 24 that the steel mill is up for sale, but he added that he lacks further information both on the management's actions and on potential bidders. “We asked U.S. Steel Košice president Scott Buckiso recently for updates regarding the plant’s sale,” Hinotš said. “He said that the plant is still on offer, but that the point of issue is price. To his mind, if somebody comes forward with an offer involving a large amount of money, they’ll consider it,” he said, noting that he had also been assured by Buckiso that the trade union will be the first to learn about such possible transactions 30 days in advance, as required by legislation.

“We have no insight as to whether the prospective buyer is from China, Russia, Ukraine or the Czech Republic. Nobody’s ever told us,” Hintoš summed up.

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