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Wheeling-Pittsburgh in combination talks |

Wheeling-Pittsburgh in combination talks

| Monday, April 17, 2006 12:00 a.m

Struggling Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. has been in talks about a possible combination with a Brazilian steelmaker and a Chicago-based steel processor, according to United Steelworkers union leaders.

Representatives of the companies recently toured Wheeling-Pittsburgh plants, but the current status of discussions is unclear, union representatives said.

Bernard Ravasio, president of Local 1190 of the United Steelworkers union at Wheeling-Pittsburgh’s Steubenville, Ohio, plant, said Friday the union was “aware” of interest by Cia Siderurgica Nacional, a Brazilian steelmaker, and also Esmark, a steel processor.

“That issue was going hot and heavy about six weeks ago, but over the last three or four weeks it’s been quiet,” said Ravasio, whose local represents about 1,700 hourly workers.

Santo Santoro, a USW staff representative with Wheeling-Pittsburgh’s union locals, said the company has had talks with both companies.

“We have no comment,” said James A. Kosowski, a Wheeling-Pittsburgh spokesman. Kosowski said the United Steelworkers union owns a “portion” of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, which employs about 3,250 workers.

Ravasio said it was his understanding the Brazilian company had an exclusivity clause to tour the Steubenville plant, an integrated steel mill with facilities that include a coke plant and an electric arc furnace. The company also operates plants in Yorkville and Martins Ferry, Ohio.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh produces cold-rolled sheet steel in Allenport. The company also operates a plant in Follansbee, W.Va.

Ravasio said he was not aware of any ongoing talks among the parties, or any meeting this week of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh board of directors.

A deal would be another in a rapidly consolidated global steel industry. Mittal Steel, headquartered in Rotterdam, is making a $23 billion hostile bid for Luxembourg-based rival Arcelor SA, the industry’s second-largest producer.

Last month, Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. was said to be in talks to acquire Middletown, Ohio-based AK Steel Holding Corp., which has a plant in Butler County.

Last month, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Corp., parent of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, reported a loss of $33.8 million for 2005, or $2.37 cents per diluted share. The loss compared to net income of $62.2 million, or $5.66 cents a share, during 2004.

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