* Closure of Kimitsu furnace to cut annual capacity 7 pct
* To delay start of new blast furnace in Wakayama -report
* First capacity cut since Nippon Steel, Sumitomo merger
* 2012/13 steel output seen down 8 pct from 2007/08 peak
TOKYO, March 12 Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal
Corp, the world's No.2 steelmaker by output, will close
the oldest of three blast furnaces at its largest steel mill in
Kimitsu, east of Tokyo, within the next several years to cut
excess capacity, the Nikkei business daily said on Tuesday.
That would mark the first crude steel capacity cutback since
the company was formed by a merger of two Japanese steel majors
The steelmaker will also delay the startup of a new blast
furnace, with annual capacity of around 700,000 tonnes, at its
Wakayama steel mill in western Japan from the original plan for
end-March, as it does not expect a rise in demand, the report
The company is due to announce a mid-term business plan
later this week. The Nikkei said the retrenchment plans would be
included in that announcement.
Japan's steel industry has been hit by falling demand from
carmakers and manufacturers that have shifted production
overseas, as well as by the construction of new steel mills
elsewhere in Asia and slowing economic growth in China,
prompting steelmakers to cut output.
Nippon Steel & Sumitomo, which was created through Nippon
Steel's acquisition of Sumitomo Metal Industries, did not have
an immediate comment on the report.
Shuttering the oldest No.3 blast furnace at the Kimitsu mill
in Chiba Prefecture will cut the company's crude steel
production capacity by about 7 percent, the Nikkei said.
The company's crude steel output is estimated to be around
43.5 million tonnes in the year ending on March 31, down 8
percent from the steelmakers' combined peak output in 2007/08,
the report said.
The Nikkei's estimate is less than the company's February
projection of 45.9 million tonnes.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Richard Pullin and