Brooke County officials are watching carefully developments with two local steel mills, with one expected to gain a new owner and another at risk of being downsized.
West Chester, Ohio-based AK Steel announced Monday it has signed an agreement to buy Severstal North America's steelmaking facilities, including the Mountain State Carbon plant, for $700 million.
Michael Walner, AK Steel's general manager of communications and public relations, confirmed the Follansbee plant will be one of several facilities acquired in the deal, pending regulatory approval.
Walner said AK Steel officials hope to maintain and improve upon all of their new facilities.
Once a subsidiary of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, the coke plant became a joint venture of RG Steel and the Russia-based Severstal. But last month Severstal acquired full ownership of the plant through a $30 million settlement out of Delaware bankruptcy court, where RG Steel has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
AK Steel President and Chief Executive Officer James L. Wainscott said the acquisition, includes Severstal's Dearborn, Mich., flat-rolled steel plant located near many AK Steel customers.
"We expect the transaction to be immediately accretive to our earnings and create significant long-term value for AK Steel, our employees, customers and shareholders," he said.
Santo Santoro, staff representative for United Steelworkers Local 2911, which represents 226 Mountain State Carbon employees, said he's hopeful about the plant's future, adding the coke produced by the plant is a vital element in the production of quality steel.
Santoro said Local 2911 and Severstal officials have been in talks for more than two years for a new contract for the plant's employees, and he's hoping a smoother relationship can be forged with AK Steel.
The news comes days after an announcement that Koppers Holdings Inc. is considering consolidating its North American tar distillation operations, and, specifically, moving naphthalene production from its Follansbee plant to another in Stickney, Ill.
But the consolidation could reduce the plant's staff, which already has shrunk in recent years to about 45.
"This would allow us to better serve our customers through a more consistent quality, production and delivery of product while also effectively addressing our goal of being more cost competitive," said Koppers President and Chief Executive Officer Walter W. Turner.
Koppers officials stressed the consolidation might not occur until early 2016.