Gerdau bets on new Brazil line, exports, data to ease steel slump
* Ouro Branco plant in Brazil exporting half of output
* Gerdau says non-traditional flat-steel output gaining clients
* Brazil steel-plate market to shrink 20 pct or more, Gerdau says
By Jeb Blount
OURO BRANCO, BRAZIL, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Brazil's Gerdau SA , the No. 1 long-steel producer in the Americas, is counting on non-traditional flat-steel exports and a data venture with General Electric Co to help weather a world-steel slump and sharp domestic downturn.
Gerdau said half of the output from its Ouro Branco steel complex is now exported. Growing production from the higher-value hot-rolled coil and steel plate lines at the plant are winning orders from new British and German clients, said Rodrigo Soares, Gerdau's head of Brazilian industrial steel, during a media visit to the plant on Wednesday.
"Brazilian demand is bad, so we must export." he said. "Being able to sell so much output abroad shows we can compete internationally on price and quality."
Gerdau planned Ouro Branco's $1.5 billion flat-steel expansion during Brazil's boom. Brazil now faces its worst recession in decades. Worse, world supply outstrips demand, major construction clients are mired in the country's biggest-ever corruption scandal and the slowdown has crimped the Porto Alegre, Brazil-based steelmaker's ability to pay debt.
Historically, Brazil's flat-steel producers export about a third of output during domestic downturns. Flat-steel output and high exports are a change for Gerdau, traditionally known for long steel, used mainly for concrete reinforcing bar in construction, structural shaped steel and other civil construction purposes. Continuación...