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Elkem, Inc., announced that it has entered into a partnership with Schlenk Metal Foils to provide RF shielding materials and conductors that are superior to traditionally used flat-rolled wire.

A press release said that there is increasing demand for shielding materials with higher flexibility, reduced thickness, greater width and extended lifetime in the high-frequency cable market, where traditionally rolled silvered copper has limitations. Partnering with Schlenk, an industry leader in rolled metal foils technology, Elkem, which provides specialized electroplating, is now able to offer advanced RF shielding based on silver-plated copper foil.

"The products created from our partnership will enable cable manufacturers to design thinner conductors with higher aspect ratios that are also more flexible and durable," said Schlenk Sales Manager Thorben Beckmann.

Elkem Inc. Vice President Jeff Lawrence said that the RF shielding materials and conductors are available now, both for R&D sample quantities and full-volume production orders. He noted that Elkem, which will exhibit at Interwire at Booth 254, is expanding its plating equipment to provide increased capacity to the market.

Sparkle, an Italian international service provider, announced plans for deployment of BlueMed, a submarine multi-fiber cable that will link Palermo with Genoa.

A press release said that the new cable, to be operational by 2020, will cross the Tyrrhenian Sea connecting Sparkle’s Sicily Hub open data center in Palermo. The data center, which serves 18 international cables with Genoa’s new open landing station, will be directly connected to Milan’s rich digital ecosystem. BlueMed will also include multiple branches within the Tyrrhenian Sea and is set to support further extensions southbound of Sicily.

BlueMed, the release said, will have a capacity up to 240 Tbps, and the cable will be approximately 1,000-km long. The system will provide advanced connectivity between Middle East, Africa, Asia and the European mainland hubs with up to 50% latency reduction than existing terrestrial cables connecting Sicily with Milan.

Sparkle’s new open landing station in Genoa is set to become the alternative priority access for other upcoming submarine cables looking for a diversified entry way to Europe, thus strengthening Italy’s role as digital gateway between Africa, Middle East, Asia and Europe, the release said.

Sparkle is part of the TIM Group, which owns and manages a global and technologically advanced proprietary network of about 530,000 km of fiber that include three major regional systems in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas as well as an extensive ownership in major international submarine cables.

Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN), a business of Nokia, has signed a contract to supply the Southern Cross NEXT submarine cable the technology it needs to enable it to provide the lowest latency connection between major data centers in Sydney or Auckland and Los Angeles.

Per media reports, the $350 million Southern Cross NEXT project, based on an open-cable architecture, will provide an additional 72 terabits per second of capacity for Southern Cross customers, adding to the existing 20 terabits of capacity potential of the current Southern Cross systems. It is scheduled for completion in 2021.

The NEXT cable will be the largest capacity, lowest latency link between the U.S. West coast and Sydney and Auckland. The contract also includes key interconnecting infrastructure for the South Pacific, providing what Southern Cross says is a reliable direct information pipeline to connect those participating nations—Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati—to the world, and greater options to the existing cables from Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga connecting to Southern Cross today in Fiji.

The system will provide full fiber connectivity to Auckland, New Zealand, and will incorporate Branching Units (BU) and OADM technology for connections to Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati. The Marine Survey was completed in 2017, and Sydney BMH and bore landing facilities were completed in 2018, along with landing arrangements in Los Angeles and Auckland.

MD ELEKTRONIK, based in Waldkraiburg, Germany, announced that it plans to invest $12.7 million in a new plant for making automotive cables in Vratsa, Bulgaria.

Per media reports, the company said that plans to build a production plant near Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. There, the new entity, to be called MD ELEKTRONIK EOOD, will make data cables and electronic components. Production is expected to start in 2020, and will create some 300 new jobs.

"The location in Bulgaria and the associated increase in flexibility play an important strategic role in our global production network, in particular, for our customers in Europe," said Ralf Eckert, a member of the company’s management board. The Bulgaria location was selected for the good educational level, its central location, well-established infrastructure and logistical framework conditions, the company reported. The plant is in an industrial area that is close to the border with Romania, a busy area for numerous automotive manufacturers and system suppliers.

MD ELEKTRONIK also reported that it is expanding its Waldkraiburg campus, where it has begun construction of a new technology center with a total floor area of some 4,400 sq m. The completion and commissioning of the building are planned for 2019. This follows prior growth activity, which in 2015 saw MD ELEKTRONIK GmbH open sales offices in the U.S. and China. To strengthen its presence in the NAFTA area, it also founded MD ELEKTRONIK de México S. de R.L. de C.V. in 2015 and built a new plant in León (Mexico) that opened in 2016.

Mid Continent Steel & Wire has been granted most of its requested exceptions to trade tariffs of 25% imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) on steel wire from Mexico.

Per DoC and multiple media reports, the Missouri-based nail manufacturer—which is owned by Mexico-based Deacero—is the largest nail maker in the U.S. Prior to the impositions of the tariffs on June 1, 2018, the company had 500 employees, but went to less than 300 because it lost some 60% of business. With the majority of the requested exemptions approved, the company is now recalling some 50 employees.

Per Mid Continent, exemptions from Section 232 tariffs are rarely approved, which made the decision especially good news. "This is a great day for our workers, our customers, for Southeast Missouri, and for U.S. manufacturing," said Operations General Manager Chris Pratt. "We knew from the start that we qualified for the exclusions. Now, we can focus on making Magnum, the best nails in the world, here in Poplar Bluff, Missouri."

While Mid Continent can once again ramp up production, the company notes that the relief is only good for one year, so it will have to seek further exemptions. Pratt said the company cut about 60 temporary jobs and more than 140 other workers left over concerns about job security and were not replaced.

Last October, U.K.-based BT Cables Ltd., formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc, was sold to the Wilms Group and renamed British Cables Company Limited (BCC). Under either name, the company has continued to be an industry standout, having now won the President’s Award 14 years in a row in the RoSPA Health and Safety Awards, a key U.K. recognition program.

“We are delighted to have once again been awarded the prestigious President’s Award from RoSPA,” Managing Director Kevin Samuel said in a press release. “This award proves that we are succeeding.”

Regarding the acquisition, Samuel described it in a prior press release as “one of the most positive developments in the company’s long history.” He noted that the Wilms Group is the biggest privately owned cable group in Europe, with more than 70 companies, some 7,500 employees and annual revenues exceeding 1.5 billion euros. British Cable Company will continue to be based in Blackley, Manchester. It has been operational for more than 120 years.

The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has fined cable manufacturers a total of approximately $127,000 for indulging in deceptive marketing practices.

Per an article in Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest most widely read English-language newspaper, the commission conducted an inquiry against 18 cable manufacturers. They were alleged to have inserted cash and coupons inside the bundle packs of electric wire that did not disclose what was inside. CCP noted that these practices only benefited electricians who generally open the packs and ended up deceiving end consumers who ultimately pay for the value of the coupons without being aware of it.

The CCP inquiry ruled that the behavior had been done by the following manufacturers: Dawn Cables, GM Cables, Fast Cable, Hitech English Cables, Pak Muzaffar Cable, Alfa Plus Wire Cable, Hi Ace English Cable, Gold Royal Cable, Zafar Cable, Nation Cable, Puller Cable, Welcome Cables, Dewan Cables, E-Flux Cables, Hero Cable, Falcon Cable, Lear Cables and Rana Cables. The companies admitted their involvement during the hearings for the charges, which stem back to 2016.

Fast Cables and GM Cables were each fined approximately $70,700, with the test of the fines split between the other 16 companies. There was no explanation for the difference. The insertion of a coupon was a violation of Section 10 as the products lack a reasonable basis related to the price printed for the consumer. All the companies were also directed to take out ads in English and Urdu newspapers informing the public about the presence and price value of coupons.

 Leoni reports that it will join Relayr—an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) company that provides complete solutions for risk-free digital transformations—for joint development work on linking intelligent cable and automation systems with innovative IoT technologies.

A press release said that the initiative will be aimed at enabling carmakers and their suppliers to reduce unplanned downtime of robotic manufacturing lines and raising production efficiency thereby improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). “Leoni and relayr will be jointly developing and providing an intelligent solution for predictive maintenance and monitoring of robot lines in car manufacturing based on the LEONiQ technology and relayr’s IoT portfolio,” it said. The research will look provide plant operators “ongoing and deeper insight into the critical areas and components of the whole line.” Initial test installations will begin as early as this year.

Leoni will provide its intelligent, IoT-enabled energy and data management on robot lines, related data analysis skills, and automotive automation and processes knowledge while relayr will contribute its know-how in IoT technology, data analysis and process optimization in industrial production.

The U.S. Commerce Department (DoC) has made a preliminary affirmative determination in its countervailing duty (CVD) investigation of aluminum wire and cable from China, setting subsidy rates up to 164% for one manufacturer.

Per DoC, on April 2 the agency issued its findings in the investigation that had been petitioned last September by Encore Wire Corporation and Southwire Company. DoC is scheduled to announce its final determination on or about August 13, 2019. If that also is affirmative, and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) makes an affirmative final determination that imports of aluminum wire and cable from China "materially injures, or threatens material injury to, the domestic industry," Commerce will issue a CVD order. The ITC is scheduled to make its final injury determination approximately 45 days after Commerce issues its final determination, if affirmative.

DoC assigned a preliminary subsidy rate of 15.77% to mandatory respondent Shanghai Silin Special Equipment Co., Ltd.; 11.57% to mandatory respondent Chanfeng Wire & Cable Co., Ltd.; and 164.16%—based entirely on adverse facts available—to mandatory respondent Shanghai Yang Pu Qu Gong. The rate for all other Chinese producers and exporters is 13.67%.

"Encore supports the U.S. Government’s ongoing antidumping and CVD investigations because we believe that illegally dumped and subsidized aluminum wire from China has undermined our investments in aluminum wire production to complement our market-leading copper building wire business," said Encore Wire Chairman, President and CEO Daniel Jones. He called the preliminary decision "a positive development and an important step toward restoring a level playing field."

The scope of the investigation covers aluminum wire and cable, which is defined as an assembly of one or more electrical conductors made from 8000 Series Aluminum Alloys (defined in accordance with ASTM B800), Aluminum Alloy 1350 (defined in accordance with ASTM B230/B230M or B609/B609M), and/or Aluminum Alloy 6201 (defined in accordance with ASTM B398/B398M), provided that: (1) at least one of the electrical conductors is insulated; (2) each insulated electrical conductor has a voltage rating greater than 80 volts and not exceeding 1000 volts; and (3) at least one electrical conductor is stranded and has a size not less than 16.5 thousand circular mil (kcmil) and not greater than 1000 kcmil. The assembly may: (1) include a grounding or neutral conductor; (2) be clad with aluminum, steel, or other base metal; or (3) include a steel support center wire, one or more connectors, a tape shield, a jacket or other covering, and/or filler materials.

Bekaert announced that it is taking wide-ranging steps to improve the company’s competitiveness that will include downsizing in Belgium—where it is based—cutting operational costs and shifting some operations and activities to be more cost-effective.

"We want to organize ourselves in a more agile and cost-efficient way," said a press release that noted that margins have suffered to where action is called for. It outlined steps in three areas.

The first calls for relocating some activities in Belgium to lower-cost locations. Those include: moving the production-related standard test lab activities to production plants that have a global service role; moving the spare parts activities to Slovakia, close to Bekart’s main production plants in Central Europe; and moving certain pilot line developments and upscaling pilot developments to industrialization. These activities would be located in the relevant "key learning plants" to speed up the development and time to bring product and process innovations to market.

The second step relates to the very competitive nature of the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) market for steel fibers in the European concrete reinforcement market, the release said. Because competitors have moved their manufacturing footprint to Central Europe or are sourcing fibers from low-cost countries, Bekaert’s Dramix® plant in Moen, Belgium, is not competitive with the current pricing trends in EMEA. As such, Bekaert will close the Moen plant and further upscale Dramix production at its plant in Petrovice, Czech Republic.

The third step is "to reduce certain activities and align them better with the business needs and the new organizational structure of the Group," the release said. This would include a downsizing of administrative and other support roles "by better leveraging the potential of standardization, centralization, outsourcing and relocation." As a result, the engineering, technology and functional departments in Belgium will focus "much more on their respective, global expertise roles and act as strategic business partners. They will be helping the business with the capability to deliver on the short- and long-term goals."

The release said that implementing the described actions "will improve our competitive position in the market place worldwide by significantly reducing our cost structure, which will help improve the financial performance of the Group sustainably."

The restructuring would affect 281 jobs in Belgium. Per a report in flandsersnews.be, the job losses include 70 at Moen, outside Zwevegem; a further 44 in Zwevegem itself; 106 in Deerlijk; and 61 in Ingelmuntser.

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