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Company News, 2008-03-25, 11:00 AM

Rasselstein growth bucks market trend

“Despite significant price increases, tinplate from Germany will remain in demand worldwide.” This is the confident forecast of Dr. Ulrich Roeske, CEO of Rasselstein GmbH, Germany’s only tinplate producer.

Speaking to journalists in Düsseldorf, Roeske outlined how the Andernach-based company, a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Steel AG, Duisburg, is gearing up to deal with stiffening global competition. Over 160 million euros of capital investment in state-of-the-art facilities in recent years have turned Rasselstein into the world’s largest production facility for tinplate with a capacity of 1.5 million tons. The company employs around 2,400 people. Rasselstein is the biggest single customer of ThyssenKrupp Steel AG, taking around 10 percent of its hot band production.

Rasselstein’s main sales region for tinplate, the raw material for food, beverage, aerosol and other cans, is the enlarged area of Europe. Bucking the trend on this generally stagnating market, Rasselstein has increased both its market share and its absolute level of shipments. “Our existing customers have been a key factor, accounting for 95 percent of this growth,” said Roeske. The company was pursuing an uncompromising premium strategy in which “technology and quality are key priorities,” he continued.

The almost 250-year-old company is a vital part of the local economy at its site in Rhineland-Palatinate. The latest investment by the ThyssenKrupp Group is seen as a commitment to the tinplate business and to Germany as a manufacturing location.

The international tinplate market is a niche market, accounting for roughly 1 percent of total world steel consumption. Steel is resisting competition from other packaging materials thanks above all to its ecological advantages, a key factor alongside safety, cost and production-related benefits.

Whereas Rasselstein can rely on its innovativeness as an important competitive advantage over other materials and other tinplate manufacturers, cost is becoming a serious concern. “Never before have we experienced such a simultaneous explosion in the costs of almost all our input materials,” says Roeske. “With ore prices set to go up by 65 percent in 2008 and prices for alloying elements, coal, energy, scrap and transportation also rising, we face drastic increases in our starting material costs.” One particular cost factor is the price of tin, currently at an all-time high of over 20,000 dollars per ton.

“The increases in our own tinplate manufacturing costs come on top of the raw material costs,” says Roeske, pointing to already announced further price increases for hot band. These costs will have to be charged on to the market, he says. “Our customers have good arguments for passing on the price increases we are having to impose on them. Quality has its price.” Despite the concerns, Roeske remains optimistic: “With the quality of its products and its unique range of services and technical support, Rasselstein is confident of continuing high demand.”

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