China is poised to play an important role in global merger and acquisition activities in the steel sector, according to an international industry consultant.
Nicholas J. Sowar, global steel leader with Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, said in a recent interview in Shanghai that the ongoing internal consolidation of China's steel sector was crucial to its development.
Sowar applauded the Chinese Government's policy direction on the steel sector, including reducing export value-added tax refunds, and its iron ore import licence system.
"China's efforts to make its top 10 steelmakers dominate half of its total steel market by 2010 will speed up internal consolidation," Sowar said.
As consolidation accelerates, Sowar said he believed Chinese steelmakers would become stronger and more able to acquire overseas competitors.
"The day will come soon, as top Chinese steel mills are in the process of becoming buyers," he said.
Baosteel Group, China's top steelmaker, will be a major player in steel acquisitions, Sowar said.
With years of consulting experience in steel industry mergers and acquisitions, Sowar said Baosteel should consider access to raw materials, more markets and better R&D when making acquisitions.
According to a Deloitte study, only 30 per cent of global merger and acquisition activities in the steel sector succeeded, while the vast majority, 70 per cent, failed.
Sowar praised the Mittal-Arcelor merger as an outstanding case, with both sides benefiting from shared raw materials and supplementary markets.
"The merger makes the new entity a truly global company," he said.
The recent announcement of Indian Tata Steel's bid for larger European rival Corus Steel is another good example, Sowar said.
Tata is a low-cost producer and has rich iron ore, while Corus is advanced in R&D and is 10 times the size of Tata.
"The Tata-Corus takeover is a prudent move and a very good example for prospective Chinese buyers," Sowar said.
As to whether better internal consolidation will add to China's negotiating power in the price of iron ore, Sowar said he did not think there would be a direct impact.
"The world's three iron ore producers dominate 75 per cent of global supply, so it will be difficult to influence them," he said.
But he believed a consolidated Chinese steel industry would make the iron ore price more stable.
Internal consolidation would also remove China's inefficient capacity and lower its demand for iron ore, he said.
Sowar's optimism contrasts with the view of many insiders who think China is dragging its heels consolidating the steel industry.
A senior official, who declined to be identified, said at a steel conference yesterday that the consolidation process had not gone as smoothly as expected.
In 2004, China's top 10 steelmakers accounted for 34.7 per cent of the domestic market. The ratio dipped in 2005 to around 33 per cent, despite government efforts to lift it.
(China Daily November 3, 2006)