European plate demand positive but threatened by external factors
Competitive resale values for hot rolled plate were noted in Germany, in early February, as several distributors sought to offload expensive purchases made in the middle of last year.
A lack of large diameter pipe projects persists, and current geopolitical problems are likely to adversely affect the potential for new investment in this segment. The mills are allocating an increasing amount of capacity to the expanding offshore wind farm sector, with the consequence of restricted availability for API line pipe customers. Demand for quenched and tempered grades is performing well.
French flamecutting companies continue to report good prospects for this year. However, a number of machine makers may experience difficulties because of the continued reduced availability of semiconductors. Local plate distributors are maintaining their inventories at reasonable levels and are buying material on a regular basis. The mills are managing their output, to conserve energy.
In Belgium, plate producers are attempting to raise their selling prices but buyers, so far, have been able to negotiate to pay only small increases. A tightening of supply is envisaged. Positive demand indicators are apparent in the infrastructure and energy segments.
Italian rerollers are lifting their selling prices, substantially, as the cost of imported slab rises, due to tight supply and high input expenditure. Domestic mills report good order books, and their delivery lead times are extending.
In Spain, the domestic producer continues to focus on supplying high-value sectors, such as wind power and shipbuilding. Steel traders report receiving few offers from overseas suppliers, due to the Lunar New Year holidays. Prices for plate from ports’ stocks are stable.
UK market activity remains quiet, and inventories continue to be higher than is necessary for current requirements. Price increases are failing to encourage customers to place new orders. Demand from the oil and gas sector is weak.