Is Finnish stainless steel mill now also failing?
Is Finnish stainless steel mill now also failing?

8 March 2024 – The next wave of strikes will hit EU member Finland from Monday: Will the stainless steel maker Outokumpu now also be out of action for weeks? And nickel prices exceed USD 18,000/MT – contrary to all prophecies of doom.

Is Finnish stainless steel mill now also failing?

Finland has been affected by the biggest wave of strikes in the country’s history since the beginning of February 2024. Among others, the largest stainless steel producer in the EU, Outokumpu Stainless (EAF, nominal crude steel capacity 1.2 million MT pa), together with the steel producer SSAB Europe (BF-BOF, nominal crude steel capacity 2.6 million MT pa) have already been affected several times.

Trade unions strike against plans to reform labour law

Finnish trade unions have called for a wave of industrial action to protest against the government’s proposals to reform labour law, which they say would have a negative impact on low-paid workers and shift the balance of power in setting salaries in favour of employers.

The strikes in Finland are taking place in almost all economic sectors.

From Monday: massive strikes for at least two weeks

The industry trade union has now called another wave of strikes, which are to last from 11 to 24 March. Once again affected: Outokumpu Chrome, Outokumpu Stainless and SSAB Europe. At the same time, all Finnish export harbours are to be closed for a period of two weeks.

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of flat rolled stainless steel shortfall?

Together with Acerinox’s Spanish stainless steel mill in Los Barrios (which has been on strike since the beginning of February), around 2.4 million tonnes of nominal stainless steel production will be offline until at least the end of March. This means that almost 150,000 to 250,000 tonnes of real crude steel production for flat rolled stainless steel production in the EU are already missing.

We are reminded of our Stainless Cappuccino from the beginning of February: Excessive EU market protection at the expense of security of supply?

Nickel above USD 18,000/MT: Prices simply ignore the threshold that cannot be exceeded

The LME nickel prices, whose swan song was once again driven by the media, had already simply crossed the unbreakable threshold of USD 18,000 per tonne on Thursday and remained positive at just under USD 18,100 at the start of trading today, Friday. Prior to this, Asian nickel futures on the SHFE had already risen by more than 1.9% and most recently stood at almost USD 19,200 per tonne.

EU base prices and alloy surcharges have been obsolete for years

However, the nickel price on the LME is only of secondary importance for pricing in the EU. The main reason for this is that EU stainless steel producers have been using an ever-increasing proportion of stainless steel scrap in their EAFs for years, which now stands at more than 90%. Base prices and alloy surcharges for stainless steel have therefore no longer been the basis for pricing for years and are now only used for group reports and unjustifiably in EU market protection measures.

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