--Vale wants partner with "vision to expand" CSA steelworks, says Vale's Corbellini
--CSA would achieve cost savings with more capacity
--Vale wants quick sale of ThyssenKrupp's stake to proceed with plans
SAO PAULO--Brazilian mining company Vale SA (VALE, VALE5.BR) is keen to expand its new steel mill in southeast Brazil, despite setbacks which have led Germany's ThyssenKrupp AG (TKA.XE, TKEKY) to put its majority stake in the plant up for sale.
ThyssenKrupp on Wednesday said that it has appointed Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) to help sell its 73% stake in Companhia Siderurgica do Atlantico, or CSA, as it wants to stem losses at its Steel Americas division.
Vale, which owns the other 27% in CSA and isn't interested in increasing that stake, wants a partner with the "vision to expand" the plant, as that is the best way of achieving economies of scale, said Vale's global steel director Aristides Corbellini in an interview.
"Vale would like to have a partner who could eventually make CSA grow, with a third blast furnace and maybe rolling mill facilities," Mr. Corbellini said, speaking on the sidelines of the Brazilian Steel Institute's annual congress in Sao Paulo.
Vale would like to see CSA's production of steel slabs rise to 7.5 million or 8 million metric tons a year from the current 5 million tons annual capacity, Mr. Corbellini said.
Vale wants the new partner to be found as quickly as possible, as it wants to carry out a $100 million investment plan to raise capacity at the two blast furnaces to 5.5 million tons a year, Mr. Corbellini said. The investment would also help reduce costs and could be completed in 18 months via storage space expansions and an enlargement of continuous casting facilities, according to Mr. Corbellini.
"CSA's in a plaster cast at the moment; it's not growing," Mr. Corbellini said. "We're interested in making it grow."
Press speculation has suggested that Chinese and South Korean steelmakers may be interested in buying the stake, while there have also been indications that Brazilian steelmaker Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (CSNA3.BR), or CSN, might also be interested.
CSA, which represented an investment of more than 5 billion euros, started production in 2010 after cost overruns, delays and environmental opposition. It's still in the ramp-up phase, producing at a rate of around 4 million tons a year of slabs which are sold to ThyssenKrupp's Alabama, U.S., and Duisberg, Germany plants, for rolling into finished steel products.
However, after months of losses, CSA has been breaking even since April with a tendency to start generating profits as it moves toward its full production capacity of 5 million tons a year, Mr. Corbellini said.
"Since April, it's Ebitda-zero, tending to positive," he said. "Everything had to be adjusted to gain scale."
Usage of raw materials, including fuels, has become more efficient, while energy generation has grown at the company's own power station, which also sells electricity to the open market, he said.
ThyssenKrupp's Alabama works is likely to continue to buy slabs from CSA, even if the slabmaker's control changes hands, according to Mr. Corbellini. Other likely customers for the slabs include Latin American steelmaker Ternium SA (TX) and California Steel Industries in the U.S., he said.
Vale is committed to maintaining its stake at CSA, as it has an exclusive contract to supply all the works' iron ore requirement until 2024 and an option to expand CSA's port, which currently has a berth for coal imports and another for steel exports, Mr. Corbellini said.
"We don't need to raise our stake to maintain these rights. Vale's interest is to keep its existing rights," he said.
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