The latest announcement of the intention by President Trump to scrap the existing nuclear deal with Iran could well bring a new wave of uncertainty in the European steel markets. During the last two years, following the lifting of the sanctions, trade relationships between Europe and Iran have resumed, both in terms of import/export of steel products and technology cooperation.
European authorities have been voicing their intention to continue to deal with Iran despite the US announcement. The effect of new sanctions against Iran by the US government however could well impact EU companies. This could take the form of difficulty in using US dollars to finance deals, to sanctions by the US on European companies doing business with Iran.
As a result, the biggest loser in in the steel sector in Europe could be Italian re-rollers together with EU tubemakers and steel technology suppliers.
According to Eurostat data, last year Italy imported over 300,000 tonnes of semi-finished products from Iran, representing over 80% of the total sales of steel products from Iran to Europe. Semi-finished products remain the principal imported product into Europe from Iran following the imposition of duties on Iranian HRC.
While Iran is not one of Europe's main suppliers, Eurofer notes that during Q1 2018 Iran finished steel imports into the EU rose 84% y-o-y
In terms of exports to Iran, tube remains the main steel product traded from the EU. Germany has been among the most active in this sector with more than 25,000t of exports in 2017, followed by Spain.
If trade with Iran becomes subject to restrictions Italian re-rollers will be forced to find alternatives for their semi-finished purchases and European tubemakers could struggle. This week, for example, Tubacex, the Spanish stainless seamless tubemaker, noted that there is uncertainty over the existing deal the company has with Iran to supply tubes worth €500 million over the next three years. While the contract for this year is expected to be confirmed, future developments now remain uncertain (see separate article).
During recent years, EU steel technology suppliers such as Danieli and SMS have signed important agreements with Iran. The Italian firm, for example, signed €5.7 billion worth of deals with Iranian companies in January 2016 (see Kallanish passim). This included a €2 billion agreement to establish Persian Metallics, a 6 million tonnes/year iron ore pelletising plant in Iran’s southern city of Chabahar.
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