January 26, 2011
sourced Business standard by Dilip Kumar Jha & Shubhashish
The prices of sponge iron rose by nearly 20 per cent in the past month in line with similar rises in the prices of other steel making raw material, including iron ore and scrap.
On Friday, sponge iron prices in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India’s largest producing hub, is quoted at Rs 21,000 a tonne, from Rs 16,500 a tonne about a month earlier. The commodity slipped marginally from its peak at Rs 22,000 a tonne yesterday. Producers and traders attribute this price rise to an all-round appreciation in finished steel products and raw materials.
Post-monsoon construction activity began with a lag of a month due to an extended rainy season. So, projects in this sector are behind schedule, creating a rush for completion. As a result, demand for construction-grade steel has suddenly surged. Vipul Agarwal, director (finance), Prakash Industries, said, “Sponge iron prices have spiked by over 20 per cent in the past month or so and looks likely to continue to move upwards.”
The cost of production of sponge iron for Prakash Industries is around Rs 12,000 a tonne due to captive iron ore mines.
The company sells it at a profit margin of a massive 75 per cent, at Rs 21,000 a tonne. Agarwal said, “We have our own coal mines. That is why our cost of production is lower than other sponge iron makers.”
On the other hand, a number of small sponge iron producers in Chhattisgarh have shut shop due to inability to procure raw materials like steel scrap and iron ore at such a high price. Imported steel scrap is quoted today at Mumbai port at $450-480 a tonne, a significant rise from $360-400 a tonne about a month earlier.
Similarly, the benchmark iron ore (with 63.5 per cent of Fe content) perked to $190 a tonne from $155-160 a tonne a month before.
“Though the flood in Australia did not impact supply of iron ore or coking coal, it created a sentimental boost to the entire steel sector,” said Vimal Kumar Somani, director of Topworth Group, a Mumbai-based sponge iron manufacturer which runs its plant in Raipur.
Prices of finished steel have also surged in line with hot-rolled coil, up to $760 a tonne today from $580 a tonne a month before. Shredded scrap is currently quoted at $500 per tonne, a significant rise from $440-450 a tonne, while heavy melting scrap (HMS) is sold at $450-480 a tonne today, as compared to $360-400 a tonne a month earlier.
Internal demand for steel is also bullish, especially from the automobile, construction and consumer durables’ sector, said Somani. Mega projects like power and national highways require a lot of steel. Therefore, prices of steel and its raw materials are likely to remain firm for at least the next two months, he added.