The strongest quarter was Q1/11 with 2.1 million t, the weakest was Q3/11 with only 1.6 million t of production. All in all, the European production grew by around 1%.
Production has recovered to almost 700,000 t in January/February each - after a substantial drop in December (only 480,000 t).
Nevertheless, January/February 2012 production was only marginally above the same period last year. Stainless production was mainly fed by improved order intake from distributors due to increasing raw material prices.
A drop in production
For the second quarter, a drop in production has to be expected due to the current order reluctance by distributors after the end of the nickel price rally, stagnant end use and the fact that Inoxum has a melt shop maintenance scheduled in April (Germany).
European mills – Profit situation
Profit situation of the European mills has to be considered as not satisfactory.
Read more: Outokumpu conducts a strategic review of its VDM high performance alloys business
Mill attempts to lift base prices at the beginning of 2012 have partially failed: firstly, the demand situation in Southern Europe remained disappointing. Secondly, the pending Outokumpu/Inoxum merger makes it difficult to call for base price increases. Thirdly, European mills have to protect the European market against supply from China.
Read more: Damstahl: EU return to positive results in Q1/13
A wide price gap would not be very helpful to reach this target. As long as the Outokumpu/Inoxum merger has not been finalised, an antidumping case against flat products from Asia is not an option for European mills.
Inoxum has ordered an annealing and pickling line at Andritz (Austria) for Krefeld. It contains a 400,000 t hot rolled strip and a 290,000 t cold rolled strip a&p line. Andritz will also supply a 20-high 4-columns cold rolling mill. Production on the new equipment will start in 2014.
Inoxum’s target is to develop Krefeld to a competence center for hot and cold rolling. It also planned to relocate equipment from Benrath to Krefeld.