US Steel draws interest from small Canadian rival it once owned

Stelco’s Lake Erie Works (LEW) Facility in Nanticoke, Ontario. Credit: Stelco

Canadian steelmaker Stelco Holdings Inc. is pursuing a bid for bigger rival and former owner United States Steel Corp., adding to a growing list of suitors for the iconic American company.

Stelco, whose sales and market value are dwarfed by US Steel, seeks to buy the Pittsburgh-based producer to increase its steelmaking assets and boost its share of the market for supplying metal to the automotive industry, according to people familiar with the matter. US Steel shipped six times more steel than Stelco last year and has a market value almost five times larger than the Canadian firm it once owned.

Hamilton, Ontario-based Stelco is in talks with a potential partner on its bid, the people said, asking not to be identified because details are private. No final decision has been made and Stelco could opt against making a bid, the people said. Representatives for Stelco and US Steel declined to comment.

US Steel rose as much as 1.9% to $31.82 Friday in New York while Stelco rose as much as 0.9% in Toronto.

US Steel announced a strategic review in August after rejecting a $7.25 billion bid from rival Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. The cash-and-stock bid is the latest bold move from Cliffs, which has gone from a simple iron ore producer just four years ago to dominant steelmaker that acquired the former assets of ArcelorMittal USA and AK Steel Holding Corp. The battle for US Steel could spell the end to what was once the world’s biggest company.

Stelco, once called the Steel Company of Canada, traces its roots back more than 110 years. The company fell onto hard times by the mid-2000s and filed for bankruptcy protection. US Steel bought the troubled producer in 2007 and changed the name to US Steel Canada. Less than a decade later, US Steel took some of Stelco’s best contracts and abandoned what was left of the company in 2015. Chief Executive Officer Alan Kestenbaum, a noted turnaround artist with a long history in the commodities industry, acquired the assets out of bankruptcy in 2017 and restored the Stelco name.

Cliffs is the only remaining company that has gone public with a bid to buy US Steel, with its proposal currently valued at $32.12, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Esmark Inc. made an offer in mid-August and retracted it nine days later, citing union support for the Cliffs deal for the turnabout. US Steel has said multiple companies have expressed interest in the company. Reuters reported last month that ArcelorMittal, the world’s second-largest steelmaker, was considering an offer for the US steelmaker.

Stelco and a partner would make sense given the disparity in equity value, Citi analyst Alexander Hacking wrote Friday in a note to investors. It would likely require another steel company to take on some of the assets or provide a “very substantial” financial commitment to handle the existing debt of US Steel, Hacking wrote.

Stelco, with a market value of about $1.5 billion, shipped 2.63 million tons of steel last year. That compares with 16 million tons shipped by US Steel, which has a market value of about $7 billion.

(By Joe Deaux and Kiel Porter)


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