Nippon Steel to renovate blast furnace at Nagoya for $450 mln

TOKYO, June 5 (Reuters) - Nippon Steel Corp, Japan’s biggest steelmaker, said on Friday it will spend 49 billion yen ($450 million) to renovate its No.3 blast furnace at Nagoya Works in central Japan in 2022 to boost stability and productivity.

The world’s third-biggest steelmaker by crude steel output also said it would step up plans to shrink its assets to help improve its financial health, targetting 500 billion yen in the three years through March 2021, up from 400 billion yen earlier.

Nippon Steel booked a record net loss for the year that ended in March due to a hefty restructuring charge amid slumping demand at home and abroad, as well as tougher competition from China.

Nagoya Works is one of Nippon Steel’s key production bases for automotive steel sheets and the 4,425 cubic meter blast furnace, built in 1969, was last upgraded in 2000, the company said.

The furnace will be idled for about 3-4 months during the April-September period in 2022, a company spokeswoman said. The expenditure will be included in the company’s 1.5 trillion yen spending plan for the three years through March 2021.

Facing a collapse in demand from the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has previously announced the temporary shutdown of five of its 15 blast furnaces by July. Including earlier measures, the shutdowns will reduce capacity by about 30%.

The decision to renovate the Nagoya furnace was aimed at strengthening competitiveness at the key facility rather than trimming output, the spokeswoman said. ($1 = 109.1500 yen) (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; editing by Richard Pullin)