* Undisclosed number of rivals bid for Slovak unit
* Slovak production set for central, western Europe mkts
* Supplies car, construction, packaging, other sectors
By Martin Santa
BRATISLAVA, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Investors have expressed interest in U.S. Steel Corp’s Slovak operation because of its location, low labour costs and product portfolio, the company said on Monday.
U.S. Steel Kosice, the euro zone country’s largest private corporate employer with more than 11,000 staff including subsidiaries, is an important supplier for Slovakia’s booming car industry, the key driver of the small economy.
Jan Baca, spokesman for U.S. Steel Kosice, confirmed that it had received approaches, but he would not comment on reports that German group ThyssenKrupp and investors from Ukraine were among those interested.
Steelmaking conglomerate Thyssen, in the throes of a radical restructuring in which it is trying to sell assets to slash debt and refocus the group on its core European business, denied any interest in the company.
The Pittsburg-based parent company said in October that plummeting steel prices, suffering from the global economic slowdown and weak demand in China, will dent its fourth-quarter results.
Baca cited U.S. Steel Kosice’s (USSK) good product portfolio for growing markets in the Czech republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia as factors behind investors’ interest.
He acknowledged that U.S. Steel Corp will “explore this interest” but that no decisions had been made.
The euro zone debt crisis, accompanied by rising energy and raw material costs, dented U.S. Steel’s Slovak revenues last year. The Slovak business recorded a net loss of 25 million euros ($31.8 million) in 2011, compared with a 96 million euro profit a year earlier.
USSK, with annual raw steel production capacity of 4.5 million metric tons, supplies steel-consuming sectors including the construction, automotive, packaging, transportation, appliance, electrical, oil and gas and petrochemical industries.
The Slovak unit produced 3.3 million metric tons of pig iron and 3.8 million metric tons of steel slabs last year.