Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Expert Fears for Future of Corus Works

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Expert Fears for Future of Corus Works

Article excerpt

Byline: Alan Plews

An industry expert today cast doubts on the long-term future of Teesside steelworks.

The investment banker - an industry specialist for 15 years - fears Corus has no intention of operating Teesside as a merchant mill.

Corus announced in April that Teesside steel is still needed until Scunthorpe and Port Talbot plants are upgraded.

That work is expected to take two years after which the Teesside site - employing 2,900 workers directly and thousands of others in the supply chain - would be cut adrift to sell its products into international markets.

But independent analyst Peter Dupont believes the Anglo-Dutch steel giant will want to sell Teesside - and if that's not possible, to close it.

"Then it will be a fait accompli," he said. "They can say they have tried but it hasn't worked.

"I think they will try to sell, then if something goes wrong they can say it was out of their hands.

"One of the troubles with Teesside is that it has a truncated steelworks. It was never integrated, and that makes it vulnerable."

Mr Dupont believes the decision to sell the coil plate mill, announced on Friday, was a wrong move.

"Operating as a merchant slab operation is a difficult business and it is always useful to have another string to your bow, which the coil plate mill would have given," he said.

"The advantage for Teeside was that the coil facility was already there and could have been reactivated at nominal cost.

"Steel is not a high margin business so you have to keep volumes up, even with an added product line.

"The coil mill had a number of problems, the main one being it could not work to tight enough tolerances, but it was there and by virtue of that alone was better than nothing."

Dave Walsh, a member of the Steel Task Force, set up two years ago to deal with an announced 1,000-plus redundancies at Corus, blasted management for again not talking to others concerned over the future of the Teesside works. …

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