U.S. Steel Corp.’s cost advantage over competitors from owning its iron ore mines is shrinking as the price of the commodity used to make steel sinks to a four-year low.
Analysts said iron ore’s decline to $70 a metric ton puts pressure on the Downtown-based steelmaker because competitors will benefit from lower raw material costs that U.S. Steel has long enjoyed. That pressure will mount as steel prices follow iron ore prices lower, especially helping competitors with lower production costs such as Nucor Corp., U.S. Steel’s chief rival.
“The U.S. Steel guys are going to have to work real hard to separate the revenue declines from external forces,” said John Tumazos of Very Independent Research of Holm-del, N.J. “Everything they’ve done in the last two years to cut costs was necessary, but everything points to more cost cuts.”
Under CEO Mario Longhi’s leadership, the Downtown-based steelmaker has closed mills, saved $500 million by halting an iron ore expansion project in Keewatin, Minn., relinquished control of its money-losing Canadian unit and saved $495 million under its Carnegie Way initiative to cut costs and return to profitability.