March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Kobe Steel Ltd., Japan’s fourth-largest steelmaker, said it’s ready to help supply domestic mills affected by the nation’s strongest earthquake on record.
“The company itself was hit hard by the 1995 earthquake,” Takashi Goto, senior general manager at the company’s iron and steel division, said today in a group interview. “As a past victim, we are all working together to see how we can make a contribution to society.”
Kobe will offer to sell steel to domestic steelmakers such as Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corp. to help them meet contract requirements if asked, he said.
Sumitomo Metal’s Kashima plant near Tokyo sustained “big damage” and the factory cannot be operated “for a while,” Chairman Hiroshi Shimozuma said yesterday. Kobe Steel has yet to determine how much domestic steel demand will weaken due to damage and power outages stemming from last week’s earthquake, Goto said. Japan is the world’s second-largest steel producer after China, accounting for about 8 percent of global output.
Sumitomo Metal Industries shares plunged a record 16 percent to 153 yen at the close in Tokyo. Nippon Steel fell 11 percent, the most since October, 2008, to 236 yen, while Kobe Steel dropped 12 percent, the most in two years, to 167 yen.
Nippon Steel, Japan’s largest steelmaker, has restarted three blast furnaces at its Kimitsu factory in Chiba, near Tokyo, and is resuming rolling operations, the company said yesterday. The company has stopped production at its Kamaishi plant in northeastern Japan after some facilities were inundated by a tsunami triggered by the temblor.
Kobe Steel’s domestic steel plants located away from the earthquake-hit region were not damaged, Goto said today. The steelmaker was hurt by the Kobe earthquake, which resulted in more than 5,000 deaths.
Japanese manufacturers including Toyota Motor Corp. suspended some production after the 9-magnitude temblor struck on March 11, unleashing a tsunami that engulfed towns on the northern coast.
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