VIENNA, Sept 15 (Reuters) - The head of Austrian speciality steelmaker Voestalpine said he is hopeful that the incoming new EU executive will be more amenable to measures that could persuade his company to invest in new European plants.
Voestalpine has to decide in the next five years where it will build new furnaces to replace ageing plants in Austria, a period that coincides with the term of incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who last week announced that his team’s focus will be on economic growth, energy reforms, competition and trade.
Boosting investment is a priority for EU leaders trying to galvanise a sluggish economy, but Voestalpine CEO Wolfgang Eder said that investment in Europe is threatened by tight CO2 emission targets that force energy-intensive industries to buy costly carbon certificates under EU environmental policy.
Eder, who is also vice president of the World Steel Association and has been a vocal critic of Europe’s environmental policy in the past, said he plans to meet the new commissioners once they are in place.
“Trust in the new Commission from the view of the real economy is greater than in the old one ... Juncker is not the type to sit in Brussels and let things float along,” Eder told reporters on Monday when asked whether he sees a stronger future for his company in Europe under the new Commission.
Even if EU leaders vote in favour of tougher CO2 emission reduction targets in October, Eder said he wouldn’t exclude the possibility that new targets might be lower than some expect.
Voestalpine is already looking beyond Europe for growth, projecting that its investments outside the EU will increase to as much as quarter of the total in 2014-15 from less than a fifth last year.
It is delivering parts for a pipeline in Brazil and is building a 550 million euro ($712 million) sponge-iron plant in Texas. (1 US dollar = 0.7730 euro) (Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; Editing by David Goodman)