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The Year in Review

A Year to Forget

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A promising year for the industrial economy was turned on its head by the biggest public health crisis the globe has seen in more than a century.

The year began and ended with major shakeups of the North American flat-rolled steel community. But the consolidation in the steel production industry, and every other event of 2020, will always take a backseat to the coronavirus whenever the metals story of the year is retold.

Early in the year, steel raw materials producer Cleveland Cliffs announced its foray downstream with the acquisition of AK Steel. But that was merely a precursor of an even bigger deal to come, the late-year acquisition of most of the assets of ArcelorMittal USA. With those transactions, Cliffs was poised to become the largest producer of flat-rolled steel products in the U.S.

Those deals also represented the bulk of the activity on the transaction front in the steel supply chain, at least through the year’s first three quarters. Once the coronavirus made its presence known in North America in late 2020, metals businesses quickly transitioned into survival mode, with any ongoing deals shelved as companies tried to protect both their employees and their bottom lines under new and previously unimaginable working conditions. 

COVID-19’s arrrival in North America late in the first quarter changed everything for the metals supply chain, and the world economy, in a matter of weeks. A brief, but dramatic, recession followed the stay-at-home orders that shut down many sectors of the U.S. economy.

Most metals businesses were quickly deemed essential operations, and numerous members of the supply chain demonstrated that by aiding in the production of personal protective equipment and other needed items in the fight against the virus. Still, those companies’ open doors could do nothing about the sudden decline in demand, most notably from the idled automotive industry.

The rebound from the depths of the crisis occurred quickly, though service centers were still tasked with running operations under the new conditions that demanded social distancing, mask wearing and an expanded remote workforce. 

The year-end announcements of successful vaccines gave hope a return to normal was possible, though the pandemic will continue to affect all areas of business into 2021. 
Running concurrently with the pandemic was the 2020 presidential election, an equally messy affair that is also dragging into 2021. All the signs point to a new presidential administration taking over this month, but the acrimony that followed Election Day and subsequent weeks is making the smooth transition, and predictability for the economy, much more difficult to attain. 

Here’s a look at the biggest news stories of 2020. 

First Quarter
SPS Companies and State Steel Supply Company acquired the parts fabrication assets of Kooima Company, a laser process fabricator based in Rock Valley, Iowa.

Triple-S Steel Holdings acquired Bushwick Metals, The deal was made through the Triple-S subsidiary Intsel Steel East.  

North Shore Steel, Houston, acquired Ford Steel. The structural steel service center operates locations in St. Louis and Elko, Nev. 

UPG Enterprises acquired Metalex LLC, a North American manufacturer of perforated products. The acquisition included the Morton Rail Products division.

McNichols Co., opened a new service center in Nashville, Tenn. The 18,000-square-foot facility carries a dedicated stock of the company’s inventory.

Samuel Associated Tube Group announced plans for a new 284,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Jefferson County, Ala. The company planned to spend $29 million to construct the facility. 

Worthington Industries Inc., Columbus, Ohio, acquired majority ownership of Samuel Steel Pickling Company. The company is a joint venture it has operated with Samuel, Son & Co., since 2010.

Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., Los Angeles, completed the acquisition of Fry Steel Co., Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Fry Steel, founded in 1948, is a general line and long bar distributor with 2019 earnings of approximately $100 million. 

Bill Zielinski was promoted to serve as president and COO of Chicago Tube & Iron, an Olympic Steel subsidiary. CTI’s existing president, Don McNeeley transitioned to chairman of the company.

Leeco Steel, Lisle, Ill., expanded its plate distribution capabilities in Canada with the opening of a new, larger distribution center in Hamilton, Ontario. Leeco relocated to a 45,000-square-foot facility in Hamilton.

A.M. Castle & Co., Oak Brook, Ill., promoted President Marec Edgar to CEO and a member of the board of directors. Steve Scheinkman retired as chairman and CEO of the specialty metals distributor. 

Tenaris S.A. completed the acquisition of IPSCO Tubulars from PAO TMK. The cash price was $1.07 billion.   

U.S. Steel Corp. idled its Great Lakes Works facility indefinitely. The facility in Ecorse, Mich., has both steelmaking and finishing capabilities and raw steelmaking capacity is 3.8 million tons. 
Parker Steel Founder Leo Goldner died Feb. 1, in Aventura, Fla. He was 96. 

Second Quarter
Sky Island Capital acquired Hillside, N.J.-based Polished Metals Limited. Polished Metals is one of the country’s largest polishers and suppliers of architectural and ornamental metals.  

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. completed the acquisition of AK Steel, integrating the country’s largest producer of iron ore pellets with a domestic steelmaker. Cliffs Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves was appointed to run the combined company.

Nucor-JFE Steel Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. began operating its continuous galvanizing line at its operations in Silao, Guanajuato. The facility produces hot-dip galvanized sheet steel for the automotive market. 

U.S. Steel acquired the remaining 50 percent of the shares of USS-POSCO Industries from POSCO-California Corp. UPI had been a 50-50 joint venture with South Korea’s POSCO Industries. 

An arbitrator ruled Novelis must divest Aleris’ Lewisport, Ky., auto sheet plant as part of the merger of the two companies. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Department of Justice in the ruling, finding aluminum and steel are not in the same relevant product market for automotive body sheet. 

Lock Joint Tube and Chesterfield Steel, both Steel Warehouse companies, began supplying one of their key customers steel for the manufacture of mechanical tubing for hospital equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

United States Steel Corp.
idled the No. 4 blast furnace at Gary Works and Furnace A at Granite City Works in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The outages were in response to declining demand due to the coronavirus. 

Arconic Corp. idled its facilities in Tennessee and New York as part of a series of measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the company. 

A&T Stainless announced plans to idle its Direct Roll and Pickle operations in Midland, Pa., by the end of June. The company cited the inability to get relief from Section 232 tariffs as the cause of the decision.

Five major steel industry groups urged Congress to include significant infrastructure investment in the next phase of COVID-19 stimulus legislation to provide a clear path toward the nation’s recovery.

Total industrial production fell 5.4 percent in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic led many factories to suspend operations late in the month, the Federal Reserve reported. Manufacturing output fell 6.3 percent; with most major industries posting decreases, driven by the severe decline in the automotive industry.

FABTECH Canada, the biennial trade show for Canadian manufacturers, fabricators, welders and processors became one of the first casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trade shows would continue to get canceled throughout the remainder of the year. 

Alro Steel opened a new facility in Oshkosh, Wis., facility. The new facility is 194,000-square-feet, replacing a 66,000-square-foot operation. 

The Madill, Okla., facility of Oklahoma Steel and Wire was damaged in a tornado April 22. Though employees were in the facility at the time of the incident, the staff had enough time to shelter in designated storm protection areas throughout the plant and no injuries were reported.

Third Quarter
Olympic Steel opened a new 120,000-square-foot processing facility in Buford, Ga. The location expanded Olympic’s Southeastern region footprint, which also includes facilities in Locust, N.C.; Winder, Ga.; and Hanceville, Ala. 

JM Steel, a JENNMAR affiliate, announced plans to expand its footprint outside the Southeast with construction of a facility near Steel Dynamics’ new mill in Sinton, Texas. SDI is building a 3 million-ton mill with “next generation: EAF technology,” expected to open this year. 

Alliance Steel completed its move to Gary, Ind. The company had been located in Bedford Park, Ill., for the previous 20 years.  

O’Neal Steel opened a new 64,000-square-foot facility in St. Joseph, Mo. The warehouse is the 19th facility for O’Neal Steel and first in Missouri.

Andy Rose was appointed president and CEO of Worthington Industries as part of a planned succession. Longtime Chairman and CEO John McConnell remained with the company as executive chairman. 

Reliance subsidiary Feralloy announced plans to operate a steel processing facility on Nucor Steel’s Gallatin, Ky., campus. The facility will level and cut steel for customers in the Ohio Valley. 

TW Metals completed its new 64,000-square-foot facility in Agawam, Mass. The new location is approximately two miles from the original facility, which was built in 1990. 

The coronavirus-induced recessionary conditions in the United States has resulted in another hit to the steel production community with the decision by JSW to idle its flat-rolled EAF facility in Mingo Junction, Ohio.  

Keith Harvey was tabbed to replace Jack Hockema as CEO of Kaiser Aluminum as part of a planned succession process. Hockema transitioned to executive chairman.

Global red metals company Wieland, through its Wieland Metal Services, made two acquisitions in North America. The German-based Wieland acquired Marjan and Nasco, both based in Connecticut.

President and COO Holman Head retired from O’Neal Industries. Head spent 40 years with the Birmingham, Ala.-based company. 

ArcelorMittal announced plans to build an electric arc furnace steelmaking facility at its AM/NS Calvert facility in Alabama. Upon completion, the facility will be capable of producing 1.5 million tons of steel slabs for the hot-strip mill, plus a broad spectrum of steel grades. 

Commercial Metals Co., Irving, Texas, announced plans to construct its third micro mill. The Mesa, Ariz., facility will have a production capacity of 150,000 tons, and will be the company’s first micro mill to produce merchant bar quality products. 

Fourth Quarter
Texas OCTG distribution and services companies Premier Pipe LLC and Pyramid Tubular LLC announced plans to merge into a single company. Both companies are existing subsidiaries of Sumitomo Corporation of Americas. 

Red metals company Wieland continued to grow its U.S. holdings with the acquisition of the remaining shares of E. Jordan Brookes.

Metal Supermarkets, the world’s largest supplier of small-quantity metals, opened its 100th location with a new store in San Diego, Calif. The store was the ninth Metal Supermarkets operation to open in 2020. 

John Paleczny, the retired former president of Petersen Aluminum Corp., passed away at age 72. Paleczny worked for Petersen for 49 years, from 1970 to 2019, overseeing the growth of the company from $3 million in revenue to more than $170 million when he retired. 

Chicago-based UPG Enterprises LLC completed the acquisition of Lex Holding Co. The acquisition includes Lexington Steel Corp., a Chicago-based distributor of flat-rolled steel products, and Douglass Logistics Inc., Lexington Steel’s affiliated logistics company. 

Athader, a Bradbury Group Company located in Spain, signed a strategic agreement with Leveltek International for the worldwide supply of stretch leveling cut-to-length lines. Athader-Leveltek stretch leveler cut-to-length lines incorporate a number of features to improve efficiencies, the companies claim.  

South Bend, Ind.-based Lock Joint Tube Company acquired Welded Tubes Inc., Orwell, Ohio. Welded Tubes is a producer of high-volume, small-diameter, tight-tolerance tubing, primarily for the automotive industry.

Liberty Steel Group made a non-binding offer to acquire the steel business of thyssenkrupp. Liberty is a global steel organization with annual revenues of approximately $15 billion, with more than 200 locations on four continents. 

Ryerson President and CEO Eddie Lehner was named Metal Center News’ Service Center Executive of the Year honor. He became the 24th recipient of the highest honor in the metals distribution industry.

Eastern Metal Supply, Lake Worth, Fla.,acquired Alliance Aluminum Products, Inc., located in Bristol, Ind. The acquisition strengthens EMS’s presence in one of the largest aluminum markets in the country. 

Butech Bliss purchased a manufacturing facility in Salem, Ohio, to expand its operations. The former operations of Solartec Inc. and Columbus McKinnon Corp. offers 50,000 square feet of space, providing room to meet the company’s needs.  

Manufacturing and distribution company Nova Steel USA selected Bowling Green, Ky., as the site of a new tube manufacturing facility. Upon completion of all phases, the company expects to operate a 325,000-square-foot facility. 

U.S. Steel successfully started up its newly constructed electric arc furnace facility at its Fairfield, Ala., operations. The EAF start-up is a part of the company’s integrated and mini-mill technology strategy. 

The coronavirus disrupted businesses at every level, and the metals supply chain was not spared.