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January 10, 2018

Sale of Georgetown Steel is finalized, new owners have very ambitious plans

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ArcelorMittal has finalized the sale of Georgetown Steel to U.K.-based Liberty House, which announced plans to reopen the mill and resume production this spring.

A press release said that Liberty House—which is part of the GFG Alliance, a global metals, industrials and energy group owned by the British Gupta family—plans to re-hire 125 former employees and gradually increase the workforce to 250. The group is targeting a major share of the U.S. market for home-produced wire rod, demand for which is projected to grow substantially during 2018.

Of note, the release said that the purchase was "the first in a series of strategic North American acquisitions and new projects targeted by the group founded and run by British industrialist, Sanjeev Gupta." The company is already in discussions regarding the acquisition of other major U.S. steel assets and new greenfield projects, which it expects to announce this year.

Georgetown Steel, based in Georgetown, South Carolina. has a storied history. Founded in 1969 by German industrialist Willy Korf, it one time had as many as 1,500 employees. It had multiple owners, including the government of Kuwait in 1984 and the International Steel Group in 2004. It was bought in 2005 by Lakshmi Mittal. The mill closed in 2009, and following the Mittal merger with Arcelor, it was reopened by Arcelor Mittal in 2011, only to be closed in May 2015.

The 600,000-sq-ft plant, which has wire rod capacity of 680,000 metric tons, will resume serving the construction and automotive markets. The release said that the plan is to re-start melting and rolling this spring "as the first step in GFG’s ambitious investment plans for the American steel industry."

"Securing the Georgetown furnace and mill is a major milestone for us, marking our first major step in the USA," said Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the GFG Alliance. "The melting and rolling facilities here give us a formidable entry to the American market and provide a strong platform for expansion. We see major prospects for the metals industry here." He added that the company plans to employ its GREENSTEEL sustainable strategy that it already uses in the U.K. and Australia.

Gupta said that customers have been in contact, and that "we’re keen to get back up and running as quickly as possible." He added that support from the town council, the state government and the union was important in making the deal work. "We look forward to rebuilding the business and bringing quality industrial employment back to the site and to the local and regional supply chain."

John Brett, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA, said that the goal throughout the process has been to maintain the Georgetown steelmaking operation. "While bittersweet for ArcelorMittal, we are hopeful that today’s announcement is a celebration for Liberty Steel and GFG Alliance, the United Steelworkers and the Georgetown community. We appreciate the patience of all of our stakeholders while we finalized this important transaction."

In a report in the SouthStrandNews, Gupta compared the Georgetown mill to Liberty House’s first steel plant in Newport, South Wales. "The first mill in the U.K. will always be important to us. ... That is where our British journey started," he said. "It was a shutdown plant as well," he added. "And we restarted it, and it’s a great success now. And that led to everything else we’ve done in the U.K. So Georgetown is the foundation of what we will do in the U.S."

At its website, Liberty Steel notes that has seven specialist businesses manufacturing steel products such as ingots, billets, blooms, slabs, bars and narrow strip, as well as hot rolled coil, pipes and tubes, structural hollow sections, plates, de-bar, wire, rod and more.
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