Liberty House completes acquisition of steel mill in US

Liberty House completes acquisition of steel mill in US

U.K. steel firm gains a foothold in the United States.

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December 20, 2017
Edited by Brian Taylor
Ferrous Financial

London-based Liberty House Group, part of the GFG Alliance operated by British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, has completed its acquisition of the Georgetown steelworks in South Carolina in the United States. The idled mill was purchased from Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal in a move Liberty House calls “the first in a series of strategic North American acquisitions and new projects.”

The 600,000-square-foot plant includes a 540,000-metric-tons-per-year electric arc furnace (EAF) and a 680,000-metric-tons-per-year rod mill designed to serve the construction and automotive sectors. Liberty House indicates it plans to restart melting and rolling in the spring 2018 “as the first step in GFG’s ambitious investment plans for the American steel industry.”

The company states it is already in discussions regarding the acquisition of other steel assets in the U.S. and indicates it is researching new greenfield projects, which it expects to announce in 2018.

Liberty House indicates it will initially rehire 125 former employees at Georgetown and then build the workforce to 250 in the medium term. The group is targeting a major share of the U.S. market for domestically produced wire rod, demand for which is projected to grow substantially during 2018, according to the firm.

Completion of the Georgetown deal follows successful negotiations between Liberty and several stakeholders, including the United Steelworkers of America union (USW), Georgetown’s city council and the South Carolina State Government.

The mill site was a pivotal part of the state’s industrial infrastructure for nearly 70 years until it was shuttered in 2015, according to Liberty House, which indicates it “now aims to restore it to its former position of prominence and bring hundreds of skilled jobs back to the plant and to the local and state economy.”

Under an agreement with the USW, the company says it expects key roles on the furnace, casters and rolling mill to be filled by experienced former employees of the plant. The company also indicates it is in discussion with Georgetown’s city council about training programs to prepare a new generation of workers for the industry.

“Securing the Georgetown furnace and mill is a major milestone for us, marking our first major step in the U.S.,” says Gupta, executive chairman of the GFG Alliance. “The melting and rolling facilities here give us a formidable entry to the American market and provide a strong platform for expansion. We see major prospects for the metals industry here and we want to apply the same ‘Greensteel’ sustainable strategy to our American plants as we are already delivering in the United Kingdom and Australia. We’re grateful for the support we’ve have from the council, the state government and the union, and we look forward to rebuilding the business and bringing quality industrial employment back to the site and to the local and regional supply chain.”

He continues, “We’ve already had customers contacting us about placing orders, so we’re keen to get back up and running as quickly as possible.”

John Brett, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal USA, remarks, “Throughout the process, ArcelorMittal has been steadfast in our goal of maintaining the Georgetown steelmaking operation to preserve jobs and maximize the value of the property for our shareholders. While bittersweet for ArcelorMittal, we are hopeful that today’s announcement is a celebration for Liberty Steel and GFG Alliance, the United Steelworkers and the Georgetown community. We appreciate the patience of all of our stakeholders while we finalized this important transaction.”