Plying the murky waters of the grain-oriented electrical steel industry can be tricky; the murkiness makes perfect sense when one considers that it is a market with relatively few players, and an industry where many companies serve as supplier, customer and competitor to one another in different situations, at least according to Ron Harper, president of Cogent Power Inc., in a recent MetalMiner interview.
(As context, MetalMiner’s monthly GOES MMI® didn’t move, holding at 221 in January. Compare with last month’s trends in our free December MMI® Report.)
Cogent Power designs and manufactures transformer cores and components, including distributed gap cores, toroidal cores, and assembled step lap core and sheet products, according to its website, and sits in a unique position within the industry – as a Canadian company supplying to a wide range of customers in the US, Canada and Mexico.
Some of the companies that make transformers include Hyundai, MEPPI, Efacecs, Hitatchi, Alstom, SPX Transformer Solutions Eaton (Cooper Power), ABB, GE Prolec, Schneider Electric, and Howard Industries, among several others.
The recent grain-oriented electrical steel anti-dumping case filed by US producers AK Steel and Allegheny Ludlum impacts all manufacturers of transformers, both large power transformers and distribution transformers.
Undoubtedly, the anti-dumping case could potentially change the manufacturing landscape as we previously reported. Canadian companies like Cogent and US-based companies with operations in other North American locations like Tempel may find themselves in a unique competitive position due to their geographic footprint, not directly “potentially” limited by any anti-dumping ruling.
And though industry insiders say that some US transformer production (Cogent customers) may shift to other locales as a result of the case, Harper says he doesn’t know of any OEM that has made the move at this stage. “Certainly there are businesses that will consider the option of relocating to have unrestricted and competitive access to globally supplied material,” said Harper, “but it’s too early to tell. Final decisions will likely be made once the DOC and ITC complete and report on their investigations.”
The case has garnered the bulk of GOES headlines this year. “I don’t think the consequences of the change are going to be as extreme as some will predict, within the potential changes in the industry structure or relocations,” Harper said. “Every time this happens there are dire predictions of relocations and significant changes, and generally the result is a more balanced approach.”
With regard to GOES pricing and the suggestion that the case will have the de facto impact of causing prices to rise, Harper said, “the challenge in the industry is that prices, from an electrical steel perspective, are some of the lowest they have been for a very long time and at the current price level it’s tough for steel production facilities to be profitable.”
Back to Murky Waters
According to Harper, because no GOES producer exists in Canada (Cogent imports GOES from sister facilities and the global market, including US producers), they are not subject to import restrictions from global material sources; however, “we are respectful of the US market and pricing, and balance our purchases from US and global suppliers,” he said. “Generally speaking, we are seen as a company that works with the US producers and industries…with this trade petition, in some cases it creates restrictions for us, and in others it may create opportunities.
“It all depends on the value that customers see that we provide to them and what the final DOC and ITC rulings are,” Harper said.
What This Means For Metal Buyers
We believe it may take a few months, but prices will likely rise, particularly if the Department of Commerce rules in favor of US producers.
As for this month’s US GOES coil price on our metal price index? It rose 0.6 percent after falling the previous month. Get complete prices every day on the MetalMiner IndX℠
The GOES MMI® collects and weights 1 global grain-oriented electrical steel price point to provide a unique view into price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the GOES MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.