ArcelorMittal SA seeks quick end to price row

[] — THE South African unit of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel maker, said on Tuesday it was co-operating with Kumba Iron Ore to expedite a prolonged dispute over iron ore supply amicably.

ArcelorMittal South Africa also said steel prices were set to rise on recovery of global demand, restocking and a boom in South Africa’s economy, particularly in the construction industry.

“We are co-operating (with Kumba) to take the matter to arbitration,” Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, Chief Executive of ArcelorMittal South Africa, said at a meeting for shareholders.

She later declined to provide further details to Reuters.

Kumba, a unit of global miner Anglo American Plc, terminated the preferential pricing deal with the steelmaker, claiming that the company had failed to renew its mining rights in Sishen mine as per South African mining laws.

Kumba supplies ArcelorMittal from the Sishen mine.

“We remain firmly optimistic that the supply agreement (with Kumba) is valid and we are taking necessary steps to protect our rights,” Johnson Njeke, the unit’s chairman said at the same meeting.

Nyembezi-Heita later told Reuters that the refusal by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to allow ArcelorMittal to take over the country’s Zisco Steel, was a lost opportunity to show foreign investors Harare was changing its policies.

“What Zisco would have offered us was a presence in a part of the world where we could service landlocked neighbouring states, plus participating in the rebuild of Zimbabwe as a country, obviously now we have lost that,” she said.

“But we haven’t lost the strategy and ambition for our Sub-Saharan footprint,” Nyembezi-Heita said.

Nyembezi-Heita said ArcelorMittal South Africa planned to grow its market within Sub-Saharan Africa in countries like Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and also Ghana.

Nyembezi-Heita said the global economic climate had improved and that she saw this supporting prices.

“We are seeing prices being traded up and up. There is also restocking and a rebound in steel demand,” Nyembezi-Heita said.