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Xstrata, Nippon Steel begin talks for Q1 ferrochrome term deals


Negotiations between South Africa's Xstrata Alloys and Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumikin Stainless Steel Corp. for ferrochrome contracts for the first quarter of 2014 started in late November amid mixed signals from the market, one of the participants in the negotiations said Friday.

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Xstrata asked for a price hike to sustain production amid rising power costs in South Africa, but the buyer was reluctant, the negotiator said.

The Q4 charge chrome price was 120.50 cents/lb CIF Japan, a rollover from Q3. The price in Q2 was 135 cents/lb and in Q1, 112.50 cents/lb.

Ferrochrome participants are divided in their market outlook while sellers point out positive signs in Europe and North America and higher power costs and buyers point to sluggish demand in China, South Korea and Taiwan.

Demand for high grade material, with lower silicon, titanium and phosphorous content, started to improve in the second half of this year thanks to stable output of specialty steel for automotive sector, but South African charge chrome demand for stainless steel was weak, sources added.

The Asian market was monitoring Taiwanese Yieh Steel Corp.'s negotiations with South African and Indian producers for Q1 as the result may affect the Japanese quarterly talks. Yusco declined to comment on the Q1 talks, which started this month.

A source at another Taiwan-based steelmaker, which last sourced South African charge chrome in November, said it paid 2-3 cents/lb three months ago.

"This suggests that there are fewer chances of prices going down in Q1," the mill source said, declining to elaborate on the exact purchase price.

--Mayumi Watanabe,
--Edited by E Shailaja Nair,