EU takes aim at Turkish steel sector

Further EU caps on steel could force some Turkish mills to close. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 January 2019
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EU takes aim at Turkish steel sector

  • The Commission said it will extend and beef up its existing ‘safeguard’ steel import caps until July 2021
  • For Turkey’s vast steel sector, the fourth largest contributor to the country’s economy, the caps could prove particularly painful

LONDON: The European Commission’s move to extend its steel import restrictions threatens to force Turkish mills, already buckling under the weight of US tariffs, to cut production further or in some cases close down, sources said.
The Commission said on Wednesday it will extend and beef up its existing “safeguard” steel import caps until July 2021 to counter concerns that European Union markets are being flooded with steel no longer being exported to the US.
For Turkey’s vast steel sector, the fourth largest contributor to the country’s economy, the caps could prove particularly painful as the EU has given it additional “country-specific” quotas.
Under the safeguards, Turkey has a tariff-free quota for rebar, a construction steel that makes up most of its steel exports, of around 300,000 tons for the first nine months of the respective quota periods, down 60 percent from its 2018 exports.
Country-specific restrictions do not apply in the last three months of the quota periods and Turkey could make up some sales then, but its annual export levels will still be sharply lower.
“Our export markets have disappeared, the local market hardly exists, we’ve got lots of capacity and no market,” said a London-based Turkish steel trader.
He added that hopes the US would soon cut its 50 percent tariff on Turkish steel imports were also fading given it is demanding that in return, Ankara hold fire on Kurdish forces in Syria, something Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cannot do ahead of local elections.

 

 Major Turkish mills such as Cebitas and Ekinciler said they had, before the EU announcement, already slashed output while Koc Metalurji said it had stopped output for about a month.
Erdemir, Turkey’s largest producer, said it was producing as normal.
Investment bank Jefferies estimates EU caps on rebar from all countries combined should reduce its total rebar imports by at least 28 percent a year, adding that producers such as ArcelorMittal and CMC should benefit most from EU caps on long products like rebar.
“(EU) quotas for (Turkish) rebar are extremely low and will be exceeded in the first one or two months. Local demand is also extremely poor,” said Turkish Steel Exporters’ Association (CIB) head Adnan Aslan.
The CIB estimated late last year, before the latest EU move, that Turkey’s steel production, consumption and exports would fall 30 percent this year.
Wednesday’s beefed-up EU safeguards come after the US placed tariffs of 25 percent on
imported steel early last year, while singling out Turkey later in the year with tariffs of 50 percent due to political tensions with
Ankara.
The US had been Turkey’s largest steel export destination in 2017, but the country’s steel flows to the EU ballooned 80 percent last year, according to Jefferies, making the EU Turkey’s the largest steel export destination.
“Traditional export destinations (for Turkish mills) are closing one after the other. Most probably, the (EU) quotas will be filled immediately, so EU producers will have a relatively good year,” the International Rebar Producers and Exports Association said in a note.

FASTFACTS

The US had been Turkey’s largest steel export destination in 2017, but the country’s steel flows to the EU ballooned 80 percent last year.


Russian court jails US investor pending fraud trial

Updated 16 February 2019
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Russian court jails US investor pending fraud trial

MOSCOW: A Russian court on Saturday jailed the US founder of a major investment firm for two months over fraud charges he says were fabricated for use in a shareholder battle.
Michael Calvey, founder of the multi-billion-dollar investment fund Baring Vostok Capital Partners (BVCP), was placed under arrest until April 13 as he and five others await trial on charges they embezzled 2.5 billion rubles ($37.7 million).
Authorities detained four BVCP employees on Friday, including French national Phillipe Delpal.
Two other suspects include a former fund employee and someone at another firm mentioned in the probe. All six are now under pre-trial arrest.
In a statement Saturday, Baring Vostok said the claims made against its employees “have no merit.”
The case has already drawn comparisons to other high-profile probes against foreign investors in Russia, notably one against Bill Browder and the Hermitage Capital fund.
Ironically, it comes as Russia hosts a high-profile investment forum in its Black Sea city Sochi.
Calvey says he is innocent and argued in court that the probe is a bid to exert pressure on him amid a shareholder conflict within Vostochniy Bank, which he is trying to resolve in a London arbitration court.
The charges against him are intended to “pressure Baring Vostok to drop its arbitration claims in London or to obstruct the new share emission of Vostochniy Bank,” Calvey alleged according to a statement by Baring Vostok on Saturday.
Investigators say that a firm controlled by Calvey in 2017 owed 2.5 billion rubles to Vostochniy bank and paid the debt with a 59.9 percent stake in the Luxembourg company International Financial Technology Group (IFTG), which was valued at three billion rubles.
The investigators claim that IFTG’s real value was only 600,000 rubles.
The fraud claim against Calvey was filed with the FSB security service this month by Sherzod Yusupov, a minority shareholder in Vostochniy Bank, Russian agencies reported.
Baring Vostok controls more than 52 percent of Vostochniy Bank, while 32 percent is owned by Artyom Avetisyan, Russian reports said.
Calvey said in court that he and Avetisyan are tangled in a shareholder dispute, and that by filing the claim Yusupov was in fact acting on Avetisyan’s behalf.
BVCP is a veteran investor in Russia, with current and past projects that include the Internet company Yandex, online retailer Ozon.ru, several drugstore and food store chains, and Russia’s leading online classifieds service Avito.
Some Russian officials have supported Calvey, with Rosnano board chairman Anatoly Chubais calling him “one of the most respected investors” whose efforts “attracted about four billion dollars in foreign direct investment to Russia.”