Indian firm shows interest in Bethlehem division

November 12, 1992|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Bethlehem Steel Corp. is talking with an Indian steel company about a possible sale of Bethlehem's closed bar, rod and wire division, which formerly operated a rod mill at Sparrows Point.

The company said its discussions with Ispat Group of Calcutta, India, involve Bethlehem's rod mill at Sparrows Point, various steel mills in Johnstown, Pa., and a 13-inch bar mill in Lackawanna, N.Y.

The division's Johnstown wire mill, which is slated to be sold to TMB Industries in Chicago, is excluded from the talks, according to a Bethlehem statement Tuesday.

Ispat has a worldwide steelmaking capacity of 4.5 million tons annually, with plants in Mexico, the West Indies, India and Indonesia.

The Sparrows Point rod mill, which had a work force of 350, stopped production Aug. 14 after the company could not find a buyer for the division. Bethlehem continues to make other steel products at Sparrows Point and has about 5,600 workers there.

The bar, rod and wire division also included an electric furnace and production facilities in Johnstown and the bar mill in Lackawanna.

All the operations have been shut, except the Johnstown wire mill, where 175 employees are working to assure a smooth transition to a new owner, according to Bethlehem spokesman Henry Von Sprecklesen.

Mr. Von Sprecklesen declined to say yesterday what other companies Bethlehem was talking to.

The discussions with Ispat are in line with Bethlehem's original intent to sell the entire division to one buyer, rather than in pieces.

However, Bethlehem in August announced a letter of intent to sell the Gautier rolling mill in Johnstown to J-Pitt Steel Co., a Pittsburgh company owned by Michael Pitterich. That mill, which makes specialty steel forms, is now included in the discussions with Ispat, Mr. Von Sprecklesen said.

Ispat is the latest of several companies that Bethlehem has negotiated with for the sale of the bar, rod and wire division.

In September, Bethlehem talked separately with an Indonesian company, an Egyptian firm and a Cypriot holding company that represents Russian and Ukrainian steel operations about buying the Sparrows Point rod mill, Scott M. Blacklin, director of the Maryland International Division, said in September.

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