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North America Steel & Wire Inc. (NASW), a U.S. manufacturer of copper- and zinc-coated wires located in Butler, Pennsylvania, has filed for Chapter 11 protection.

Per media reports, NASW plans to reorganize, and is scheduled to present a plan for this by June 27. At its website, the company notes that it also makes copper coated closing carton staples under the ISM Enterprises brand name.

According to the last information provided to the WJI Annual Reference Guide, NASW had 20 employees at its mill in Butler, where it makes specialty and industrial wires used in toys, food service products, recycling and pulp industries, and in the manufacturing of many types of fasteners. It also was cited as making welded and woven wire panels for residential and agricultural fencing. It can make carbon grades from C1004 to C1080.

South Korea’s LS Group held a groundbreaking ceremony on March 15 in Serbia, where it is investing $23 milllion to to build the plant, which it said is designed to produce 12,000 metric tons of magnet wire a year.

Per a report in The Korea Herald, LS Group Chairman Christopher Koo spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony of the magnet wire plant, which is located in Zrenjanin, some 90 km south of the Serbian capital in Serbia. The plant was described as the latest investment by the LS Group, which launched an electric car parts plant in Poland and a solar power plant in Japan.

LS Group Chairman Christopher Koo said the conglomerate’s Serbian investment is a part of growth strategy, and is expecting the Serbian plant to become the production center for its east European operation. It is scheduled to start commercial production in 2019. 

The LS Group notes that its U.S. affiliate, Superior Essex, one of the world's largest wire and cable manufacturers, generated $2 billion in sales last year. It is the sole magnet wire supplier to U.S. electric vehicle producer Tesla.

Kanthal announced that the company reopened its drawing mill in Hallstahammar, Sweden, on March 14 to meet increased demand for heating, resistance and thermocouple wire.

A press release said that the decision was made based on a conviction that global demand for appliance and thermocouple wire will continue to grow over time. The new production line, it said, is designed in a flexible way to secure a sustainable and cost-effective wire drawing.

“We want to support our customers to grow and stay competitive,” said Kanthal Global Supply Chain Manager Christoffer Saarnio. “To be able to do this, we must ramp up our production of Kanthal® wire to secure short and reliable lead times. With the new production line, we will be able to meet increased demand for many years to come.”

Kanthal President Nicklas Nilsson said that he was pleased to see the reopening of the mill, which first started production in 1931, and was closed in 2013. “It’s great to close the circle and once again see the drawing mill up and running.”

Part of Sweden’s Sandvik Group, Kanthal’s product lines encompass wire made in a wide range of alloys and shapes, including conductive wire, resistance heating wire and resistance wire, spray wire and therocouple wire.

The SMA Group announced that it has been chosen by Jianlong Beiman Special Steel Co., Ltd., to supply core components for a high-speed, wire rod mill for steel.

A press release said that the customer--based in Qiqihar, the second largest city in China’s Heilongjiang Province—is building a new wire rod mill that will have an annual capacity of 500,000 tons. It will include a 10-stand wire rod finishing block that has been designed for low-temperature rolling to comply with “the high metallurgical requirements of the finished products.” It will deploy a cooling and equalizing loop upstream of the block. The mill will process wire rod from 5.5 to 25 mm, and rebar from 6 to 16 mm, at speeds up to 115 meters per second.

The contract, the release said, also calls for the supply of two cantilever compact roughing stands, the shears upstream of the block and the loop laying head including pinch roll unit. The SMS Group is also supplying the design for the LCC® (Loop Cooling Conveyor) with three-fan technology, as well as the coil handling system. To allow for future expansion of the plant, space will be set aside for additional water boxes and a MEERdrive®PLUS block that will enable the plant to be equipped to handle closer tolerances. Commissioning is scheduled for spring 2019.

The Prysmian Group announced that the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act that applies to its proposed acquisition of General Cable Corporation has expired, clearing a key step in the process.

A press release said that as a result of the above-cited requirement, the transaction has been cleared for U.S. antitrust purposes. The transaction remains subject to other regulatory approvals and customary conditions.

Two Swedish companies that have had a business relationship for 15 years, announced that they have entered a joint ownership agreement. Under the terms, Axjo Plastics AB, a packaging supplier that specializes in reels, gets a 24% interest in Windak AB, an equipment manufacturer founded in 1994.

"For Windak and for our customers, there are great benefits of closer cooperation,” said Windak AB partner and CEO Urban Bollö. “For example, we can construct concepts that reduce shipping costs for the coils properly by mounting the coils directly in the Windak machine. Axjo also has a good sales staff who can reach out, be more present with the customers and inform about all the new technical possibilities Windak has to offer."

The acquisition is in Windak Holding AB and its sister companies: Windak AB, Windak Inc, Windak Australia and Windak OU in Estonia. Windak has its headquarters in Järfälla, outside of Stockholm, and has some 67 employees in Sweden, Estonia and the United States. The company has an approximate turnover of US$11.8 million. Axjo Plastic, founded in 1945, manufactures and sells cable drums and other round packaging for cable, fiber and other string products. It is based in Gislaved, and its group has about 110 employees, and annual sales of US$1 million. Axjo and Windak have cooperated with each other, including exhibiting together at trade shows.

"After working with Windak since 2003, it's extra fun to integrate our business more,” said Axjo Plastic CEO/owner Jacob Nilsson. “There will be great advantages for our customers that the machines, already at the design table, are adapted to the correct cable drums.” He added that the company now also has a plan where customers can rent the machines instead of buying them.

Vodafone Germany reports that the company has completed the first stage of upgrades to its hybrid fiber-cable network that serves 12.7 million households.

A press release said that the company plans to invest more than two billion euros by the end of 2021 to roll out gigabit broadband services. The investment will include a combination of FTTP and upgrading its cable network.
The biggest part of the additional capital expenditure, about 1.5 billion euros, will go to connecting businesses. The remainder will be spent on delivering gigabit speeds across Vodafone’s 12.6 million cable homes.
Last July, Vodafone launched the new top speed of 500 Mbps on its cable network, which already reaches over a fifth of the footprint. The company said it decided to accelerate the roll-out of Docsis 3.1—an option to use existing copper cable instead of placing new optical fiber—from four years to two years under the new investment plan. That timetable would mean that the first big cities should get gigabit cable broadband this year.

One target for the initiative is for optical fiber to be provided to approximately 100,000 companies in around 2,000 business parks. This effort will be deployed in co-operation with partners such as Deutsche Glasfaser and standalone. A minimum take-up of 40% will be required for the roll-outs to go ahead.

To date, Vodafone said it has upgraded over 500,000 households with connections delivering internet speeds up to 500 Mbps, including cities such as Passau, Hassfurt, Nordhausen and Ingolstadt. The company said it is planning to upgrade its entire cable network to provide speeds of 1 Gbps by the end of 2020.

Cable customers that have already opted for Vodafone’s current 200 Mbps, 400 Mbps or 500 Mbps packages will automatically be able to benefit from these gigabit-upgrades upon request, Vodafone reported. The news come as there has been increased calls in Germany for more investment in full fiber networks. Rival Deutsche Telekom has focused more on VDSL, but recently gave into pressure and launched its first gigabit broadband subscription over FTTH.

The president of Ube Industries, a Japanese chemical company whose products include polyethylene products used for some cables, admitted that his company has provided doctored reports to customers.

Per an on-line report in The Japan Times, Yuzuru Yamamoto said that the company has skipped quality-control checks for some of its low-density polyethylene products since the 1990s at its plant in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture. The products, used to insulate power and telecommunications cables, were sold by Ube-Maruzen Polyethylene Co., a joint venture with Maruzen Petrochemical Co., to 50 clients that included wire makers.

The company admitted to not doing the required reports and providing bogus inspection reports to customers that needed them for their reporting requirement. After detecting the problem last December, the company said it conducted checkups to make sure there were no problems in product quality before briefing the clients.

Ube Industries said it has set up a panel of lawyers and outside directors to investigate the matter. “We deeply apologize for causing great inconvenience to those concerned,” Yamamoto said.

Madem-Moorecraft Reels USA, Inc., reports that it expects to begin manufacturing in April at its new plant in Tarboro, North Carolina.

A press release said that the plant will be the Group’s fourth such site, and by far the most modern.  The new lines at the plant were made in Brazil by the Madem Machinery Division that was created seven years ago, said Leandro Mazzoccato, corporate sales director for Madem Group and president of Madem-Moorecraft Reels USA. He said that the lines are fully automatic and embody Industry 4.0. “The system is linked by internet with sensors that can detect any small problem, if one happens, in seconds. The set-up allows us lines to be changed far quicker and requires 40% less labor to run the machinery. The automatic ink jet system can also apply any design/color (except white), he said.

“In addition to our manufacturing operations, we intend to establish assembly and distribution warehouses throughout the U.S.,” said Stephen Redhage, vice president and general manager of Madem-Moorecraft Reels USA.

The release said that the combined operations of Madem Group supply more than 120 cable companies in 40 countries.
TE SubCom and the Samoa Submarine Cable Company (SSCC) announced that a new submarine cable depot will be built in the Port of Apia, Samoa, to service and maintain some 20 cable systems in the South Pacific region.

In 2017, TE SubCom was awarded the South Pacific Marine Maintenance Agreement (SPMMA), a five-year agreement between it and 15 regional cable operators, a press release said. The new depot, to be owned by TE SubCom, will help support and maintain more than 51,000 km of telecom and power cable systems in the area, as well as support regional installation activities. The SPMMA area covers the South Pacific region from Singapore in the west to Tahiti in the east and from the southernmost point of New Zealand to Hawaii in the north.
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