June 15, 2024

Nippon Steel aims to grow its steel output to 100 million metric tons a year.

Nippon Steel aims to grow its steel output to 100 million metric tons a year.
Photo: Yuka Obayashi (Reuters)

Japan’s Nippon Steel, the world’s fourth-largest steelmaker, announced on Monday (Dec. 18) that it’s acquiring US Steel for $14.9 billion in cash.

The deal to purchase the 122-year-old American business shows just how eager a buyer Nippon Steel is. The company is paying a huge 142% premium to US Steel’s share price on its last day of trading in August, when rival Cleveland-Cliffs made an offer of $7.3 billion—barely half of the final price tag.

Shares of US Steel surged on the news, while Nippon’s slumped as much as 6.1% in Tokyo on Tuesday. But Nippon is unfazed: Its president, Eiji Hashimoto, said he “doesn’t care about short-term stock moves.”

So what’s driving Nippon Steel’s big bet?

Nippon Steel’s global ambitions

The main reason is Nippon’s ambition to vastly expand its international presence.

“This acquisition aligns with Nippon Steel’s global strategy,” the company said in a 38-page document (pdf) published Monday detailing its purchase of US Steel.

Nippon is focusing its expansion efforts on three regions: India, where robust demand growth is expected; its home market in Asia; and the US, the world’s largest market for high-grade steel. Both New Delhi’s “Make in India” policy and Washington’s efforts — boosted by the Inflation Reduction Act — to bring manufacturing back to the US are also expected to drive demand for Nippon Steel’s products and technologies.

Relatively cheap energy in the US will further encourage manufacturers to move back there, in turn driving steel demand, Nippon noted. Plus, the US has low-cost iron ore mines with abundant reserves.

Meanwhile, the US Steel acquisition propels Nippon closer to its goal of reaching 100 million metric tons of crude steel output per year. US Steel’s annual steep output of 20 metric tons immediately raises Nippon’s annual global production capacity to 86 million metric tons. Nippon aims to produce 60% of its steel outside of Japan.

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