Foreign steel companies eye buying Sparrows Point rod mill

September 17, 1992|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Foreign steel companies are showing interest in buying and perhaps operating Bethlehem Steel's closed rod mill at its Sparrows Point plant, according to a state economic development official.

Scott M. Blacklin, director of the Maryland International Division, said representatives from three foreign companies have been meeting with Bethlehem and state officials since June about the possibility of buying the rod mill, which had employed about 350 workers. While he declined to name the companies, Mr. Blacklin said they include an Indonesian company, an Egyptian firm and a holding company based in Cyprus that represents Russian and Ukrainian steel operations.

Bethlehem has asked the companies to submit bids on the facility during the first week of October, Mr. Blacklin said. "It's something that is unfolding," he said.

Bethlehem spokesman G. Ted Baldwin declined to comment on the company's efforts to sell the mill, saying it was "premature."

The rod mill stopped production Aug. 14 after the company could not find a buyer for the division that included the mill. Bethlehem continues to make other steel products at Spar

rows Point and has about 5,600 workers there.

The Sparrows Point rod mill was part of Bethlehem's bar, rod and wire division, which included an electric furnace and production facilities in Johnstown, Pa., and a bar mill in Lackawanna, N.Y.

Mr. Blacklin, whose division is part of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development, said the Indonesian firm and the Cypriot holding company were interested in operating at least a portion of the plant that makes steel rods from imported steel billets.

However, the companies were also considering taking some of the equipment back to their countries. "Some of them are playing both cards," Mr. Blacklin said. How much of the mill would be reactivated depends on the companies' strategic plans, he said.

The Egyptian company, which has not met with state officials, had planned to dismantle the plant but is now reconsidering its plans after examining the facility, he said.

The state's role in the discussions has been to tell the companies what services were available to them. These include loan guarantees and assistance in selecting and training workers. However, the state has made no formal offers, Mr. Blacklin said.

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