March 14, 2018 / 2:25 PM / in 3 months

Brazilian steelmaker shrugs off U.S. tariffs, sees domestic demand as key

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The impact of U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on steelmaker Companhia Siderurgica Nacional SA (CSN) would not be not significant, its chief executive officer said on Wednesday, but Brazil needs to position itself to export more steel to China.

CEO Benjamin Steinbruch said the company exported 350,000 tonnes of steel to the United States in 2017, or about 6 percent of total production, an amount that will now be bound for the domestic market instead in 2018.

“We’re already directing those 350,000 tonnes to the internal market due to the economic recovery (in Brazil),” he told analysts and journalists.

“The problem is imports. Brasil imported 1.5 million tonnes of finished (steel) products. That problem is much bigger than the export problem,” Steinbruch said.

He added that the company has decided to double steel capacity to nearly 800,000 tonnes per year at its mill in the U.S. state of Indiana, at a cost of $80 million. The company is also considering a sale of the plant, he said.

Shares in CSN jumped 1.35 percent in morning trade, and its main peers in Brazilian steelmaking were also solidly in the black. Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa index dipped 0.1 percent.

Reporting by Alberto Alerigi Jr.; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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