TOKYO, April 21 Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co
, Japan's top electric arc furnace steelmaker, said it
will keep product prices unchanged for a fourth straight month
in May as stockpiles have increased after labour shortages
delayed construction projects.
The company's pricing strategy is closely watched by Asian
rivals such as POSCO, Hyundai Steel Co
and Baosteel, which aim to boost exports to Japan.
"Due to a shortage of workers, processing machineries, and
transportation, some construction projects have been halted or
delayed, which led to a boost in inventories," Tokyo Steel's
Managing Director Kiyoshi Imamura told reporters on Monday.
Prices for its main product H-shaped beams, which are used
in construction, will stay flat at 80,000 yen ($780) per tonne
in May, the company said.
"But after the April-June quarter, demand will likely pick
up as several big redevelopment projects in Tokyo metropolitan
area will start and construction of large warehouses and
shopping malls are also set to gather pace," Imamura said.
Helped by higher product prices, Tokyo Steel reported on
Friday an operating profit of 24.34 million yen for the business
year ended March 31, its first profit in five years.
Inventories of H-beam steel at Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal
Corp's distribution channels rose 6.4 percent in March
from the previous month to 233,500 tonnes, the highest in about
five years, a spokesman at Japan's largest steelmaker said.
Nippon Steel's H-beam stock level is closely watched by the
local industry as a gauge of demand for construction-related
($1 = 102.2650 Japanese Yen)
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Muralikumar