EghtesadOnline: As Iranian mills’ steel product output is on an overall downtrend, the only commodity defying this trend is hot-rolled coil, which is solely produced by Iran's largest steelmaker Mobarakeh Steel Company.
Major Iranian steelmakers produced 10.05 million tons of steel products, including hot- and cold-rolled coils, rebar, beams, pipes, wide and galvanized sheets in the last fiscal year (March 2016-17), down 2.28% compared to the year before.
MSC and its subsidiary Saba Steel had the largest share of production with 5.61 million tons, made up entirely of HRC. MSC accounted for 4.97 million tons of the figure and Saba 635,669 tons, up 2.68% and 1.48% respectively.
This is while all other heavyweight producers recorded a decline in output with the exception of Azarbaijan Steel Company, which produced less than 300,000 tons of rebar and Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari Automotive Sheet Company, which is also a producer of flat steel and another subsidiary of MSC, according to Financial Tribune.
MSC’s rising HRC output came amid Iran's growing auto output and a consequent rise in flat steel consumption. Demand for structural steel and other products is still low, as the construction sector remains stagnant.
Over the previous fiscal year (March 2016-17), Iranian carmakers produced 1.3 million units, recording a 40.7% growth year-on-year, the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade announced.
The country’s leading auto manufacturer, Iran Khodro Group, accounted for 634,481 units, up 31% year-on-year. SAIPA, the second largest producer, produced 319,850 units, up 43% and Pars Khodro made 197,989 units, up 74%.
The growth in numbers was particularly significant for the last month of the year (February 19-March 20). IKCO produced 57,433 vehicles, which indicate a 16.2% rise. SAIPA posted a 46.6% growth with 47,135 units, indicating a jump of 14,982 compared with the preceding year's corresponding month.
MSC is expected to dominate the automotive flat steel market, as it is rapidly following expansion plans and shifting from exports to the local market.
It sold over 4.71 million tons of steel products in the local market last year, registering a 42% growth compared to the year before, MSC’s deputy for sales and marketing, Mahmoud Akbari, said.
The company’s exports last year, however, were down 13% compared to the previous year, standing at 1.55 million tons.
The main hurdle to MSC export plans last year was a dispute with the Construction Pipe and Profile Manufacturers Association. The association accused MSC of refusing to provide the sector with the needed feedstock of flat steel, overcharging local buyers and prioritizing exports.
The dispute dragged on for months with some other consumers voicing the same complaint, until the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade ordered MSC to shift its focus to the local market.
Today, together with its subsidiaries, MSC is the largest flat steel producer in the Middle East and North Africa region and Iran’s largest steelmaker, accounting for 1% of Iran's GDP. The company accounts for approximately 50% of Iran's total steel output and holds approximately the same share in domestic flat steel consumption.
MSC has completed the installation of a new 5-million-ton/year iron ore pelletizing plant in Sangan, northeastern Iran. It is ready to start commissioning after the final testing is completed in the next few days.
Another MSC project, a 5-million-ton/year iron ore concentrate plant in northeast Iran, is expected to be completed by March 2018.
According to the company’s managing director, Bahram Sobhani, 11,500 trillion rials ($306 million) have been invested by MSC for the pelletizing project.
MSC used to import a portion of its pellet requirements, which have been halted for a year. Pellets are currently supplied by domestic producers. It recently increased its steelmaking capacity to 9.45 million tons/year from last year’s 7.65 million tons, after launching a new casting machine that raised output at its main plant in Isfahan to 7.2 million tons/year.
The company is also increasing capacity at Saba Steel, its affiliated thin-slab strip producer in Isfahan, to 1.6 million tons/year from 750,000 tons/year, which will increase MSC’s overall nominal capacity to 10.3 million tons/year, the company said.