March 26, 2020 / 4:16 PM / in 7 days

Tata, Liberty Steel cut European output due to drop in demand

LONDON (Reuters) - Tata Steel Europe (TISC.NS) and Liberty Steel have joined other European steel groups in cutting production after automakers and other firms slashed output due to the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: Smoke is seen coming out of a chimney at the Tata steel plant in Ijmuiden, Netherlands April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Many European carmakers, including the world’s biggest Volkswagen Group (VOWG_p.DE), have suspended production at factories across Europe.

The lack of demand has prompted Tata to reduce production although it is keeping its main furnaces running, an emailed statement said on Thursday.

“We will continue to operate all four blast furnaces across our two steelmaking hubs – in IJmuiden, the Netherlands, and Port Talbot, Wales. However, liquid steel production will be reduced as a consequence of the sudden drop in demand,” it said, without saying how much output was cut.

“We are monitoring the situation carefully and we stand ready to review these decisions based on market demand in the coming weeks.”

Tata Steel Europe produced 2.51 million tonnes in the final three months of 2019.

The European steel sector was already under pressure from weak demand and rising costs before the pandemic hit. European Union steel output fell 4.9% last year to 159.4 million tonnes, according to the World Steel Association.

Privately-held Liberty Steel, owned by the GFG Alliance headed by British-based tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, also said it was cutting back.

“GFG continues to adjust production to demand on a plant by plant basis with its highest priority being the safety of its employees,” a statement said.

Steel plants in Britain, Poland and Romania were still open, and Liberty did not say by how much it was reducing production.

Liberty said it had idled smaller rolling mills in Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy plus three British businesses that make components for the auto industry, including one using aluminium.

Liberty Steel, with operations in 10 countries, has annual output of about 18 million tonnes.

The world’s biggest steelmaker Arcelor Mittal said last week it was reducing production at its European operations, but did not say where or by how much it was cutting output.

Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Jon Boyle and Elaine Hardcastle

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