The brake exerted on the global economy by the COVID pandemic has been removed much faster and to far greater effect than expected by most leading analysts. The main reason for this was the development and approval of vaccines in record time. Furthermore, in most leading economies, measures and restrictions intended to stem the spread of the virus proved quite effective and the financial burden was alleviated by public spending in many areas. Furthermore, online shopping increased significantly as the “physical” purchasing of goods was impossible during lockdown periods.
As a result, the overall impact of the pandemic on the business community was significantly lower than many had feared - and this is certainly true for the stainless steel industry.
However, there has been disruption to international supply chains, mainly due to a lack of sea containers or the financial unattractiveness of this form of transportation.
The stainless steel industries in North America and Europe in particular were able to regain some market share and to increase their crude stainless output during the first quarter of 2021.
As for many other raw materials, the nickel, chrome and iron used in stainless steel production recorded significant price increases during the period. As a result, stainless scrap prices were able to follow the general positive trend to reach high levels.
Aperam, the leading Luxembourg-based stainless and specialty steel producer, has recently announced the signing of a sales and purchase agreement with Franz Haniel & Cie. to acquire ELG, a global leader in stainless and alloys recycling. This is a remarkable development and shows the importance of steel recycling as a circular economy and our relentless efforts to make the steel industry carbon-neutral as soon as possible.
The impact of this transaction on the overall supply chain remains unclear but, needless to say, it has the potential to bring significant change to the business of stainless steel recycling.