Flat products demand remains healthy in France, as prices stabilise

20th July 2021

Activity remains at a good level, in the French steel market. Signs of a slowdown were noted towards the second half of June. However, business picked up again at the beginning of this month, prior to the summer holiday period.

French coil service centres, working in non-automotive applications, confirm that the market remains bullish. Many continue to limit sales, due to a lack of material. Customers that need steel urgently will accept very high prices.

Nonetheless, tensions on supply are easing after the EC safeguard quotas, for the third quarter, opened on July 1. Substantial quantities of Indian-origin material were released into the market.

Local mills are quoting hot rolled coil at a base price of €1150-1200 per tonne. MEPS reports that French buyers were able to secure material at the lower end of the range, in July. NLMK’s La Louvière mill is still working at reduced capacity, following an upgrade, and is quoting the highest price, to deter bookings.

Service centres involved with the vehicle manufacturing industry report that increased profit margins are compensating for a reduction in volumes. Automotive sales are expected to recover this month, as tonnages have picked up since the beginning of July.

French coil basis values appear to have reached their peak, at least temporarily. They could resume their upward trend, in September, if demand remains strong and quotas start to fill up again.

Hot rolled plate

Plate prices stabilised, or even corrected downward slightly, in July, especially from Italian re-rollers. These companies recently provided discounts, due to a reduction in their slab expenditure. The recently announced Russian export tax is intended to limit supply from that country. This could reverse the downward trend, as Western European re-rollers are likely to pass on any rises in the cost of feedstock to their customers.

Substantial volumes of plate, stored at regional ports, were released following the opening of the third quarter import quota. However, minimal new arrivals are expected into Antwerp, in the near future.

Many French flame-cutting companies have full order books. However, they are buying only minimal quantities of steel because their short-term requirements are covered. In contrast, stockists are trying to replenish their low inventories.

Plate prices, like those for coils, are expected to stay high in the French market until the end of the year, as the outlook for demand remains positive.

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