TOKYO, April 21 (Reuters) - 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 steels. ($1 = 102.2650 Japanese Yen) (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)