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Liberty Steel European sites face questions

Liberty Steel, part of the GFG Alliance, is facing significant operational and financial challenges at its European mill sites. In mid-June, Argus Media reported that the Liberty Steel Ostrava plant in the Czech Republic entered insolvency proceedings. This plant, which includes a blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace, was acquired from ArcelorMittal in 2019. Legal disputes over payment related to the transaction continue, with ArcelorMittal seeking to collect owed funds.

The Czech mill, with its four blast furnaces capable of producing over 3 million tons of steel annually, has been unprofitable, with reported losses of $1 million per day according to MetalMining.com. These financial difficulties have also led to problems with cash flow, affecting timely payments to scrap suppliers and other vendors, as noted by steel mill unions in Europe earlier this year.

Another mill acquired in the same transaction, located in Romania, halted its blast furnace operations in May. This was Liberty’s last operational blast furnace in Europe. In light of the collapse of Greensill Capital in 2021, Liberty Steel has been undergoing extensive debt and corporate restructuring, managed by a Restructuring & Transformation Committee (RTC) and led by Chief Restructuring Officer Jeffrey S. Stein.

Liberty Steel’s operations in Europe are further complicated by the high carbon footprint associated with its blast furnace technology. To address this, the company is converting its Hungarian operations to electric arc furnace (EAF) technology to provide lower-carbon steel.

The Rotherham mill in England, which uses EAF technology and relies on scrap metal, has produced only about 10,000 tons of steel this year. Post-Greensill, scrap processors began withholding shipments to this mill, leading Liberty to import steel billets to keep the Rotherham plant operational.

In a bid to stabilize its European operations, Liberty recently appointed Andreas Böcskör as the new Chief Financial Officer, based in Vienna. He joins Thomas Gangl, who was appointed CEO of Liberty’s European business earlier this year. Böcskör’s responsibilities include overseeing financial planning, risk management, and regulatory compliance across Liberty’s European operations.

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