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This year began as last year closed. Not for more than a decade can such a positive situation be remembered for all the players in the sector.

Without a doubt, the mills have made the lion’s share. As can be seen from the financial results published in recent days, it is now clear to everyone that the leading European mills have made record profits. But despite this, there remains the ongoing and always heated struggle not only with suppliers who are hoarding scrap but also when selling the product and attempting to raise prices.

Europe’s growth phase is continuing following the reopening of economies after the various COVID-related lockdowns and restrictions. This phase has been facilitated both by the protectionist measures in place on all Asian products and by EU measures put in place to support the economic recovery. At the same time, all operators are aware of a potential slowdown in the economy amid the first signs of rising inflation and thus the prospect of an increase in interest rates.

Nevertheless, the race is still on to increase scrap prices. Indeed, prices of all stainless steel raw materials (iron, nickel and chrome) are at high levels, especially with the end of the Chinese New Year holidays.

Demand for scrap shows no sign of decreasing; indeed, it is not possible to satisfy all mill requests. The scrap deficit has also been caused by the speculative attitude adopted by operators. In fact, scrap prices have been on the increase ever since October 2020.

On February 1 this year, AST’s transfer of ownership to Italy’s Arvedi group came into effect, creating an entity capable of melting more than 5 million tonnes of carbon and stainless steel each year.