Stockholders are becoming increasingly important to the steel industry, taking an estimated 63% of UK mills’ home deliveries and 68% of imports in 1998.
According to market research firm MSI, customers are tending to demand shorter delivery times and one-stop shopping. And an increasing amount of processing work, such as sawing, blanking and surface treatment, is being carried out as part of stockholders’ operations. However, MSI says the stockholding market is still highly cyclical, with demand fluctuating greatly from year to year.
The UK is still a net exporter of steel, but only just. Overseas sales of UK steel are believed to have peaked at 7.56 million tonnes in 1997.
The strength of sterling meant that suppliers had to cut prices, but not all were able to and overseas sales dropped 14% last year.
Imports, not surprisingly, had a good 1998, up 15% to 6.43 million tonnes.
* The machine tools industry recovered from a low base in July, with turnover up by 5.6%, according to official statistics out this week. However, the total for the three months to July was still lower than in the previous quarter, while orders weakened slightly.
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