Bethlehem Steel Sharpens Its Ax

No more I-beams for Bethlehem Steel. Faced with strong competition from minimills, the No.2 steelmaker announced on Jan. 26 a $350 million pretax charge against fourth-quarter earnings, much of it to trim its structural products division. The action will cost 500 jobs in Bethlehem, Pa., only months after the company signed a six-year contract, with job security clauses and hefty lay-off benefits, with the United Steelworkers. Just last June, Bethlehem announced a plan to invest $100 million to modernize the division. But a big rival, Nucor's joint venture with Japan's Yamato Kogyo, doubled capacity, punishing prices.

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