Steelworkers Union Slams Japanese Company's Deal To Acquire US Steel

An Indiana steelworker in 2018 (Getty Images)
December 18, 2023

Japan's Nippon Steel clinched a deal on Monday to buy U.S. Steel for $14.9 billion in cash, prevailing in an auction for the 122-year-old iconic steelmaker over rivals including Cleveland-Cliffs and ArcellorMittal. The deal was quickly met by condemnation from the United Steelworkers Union, which criticized the U.S. steelmaker's acquisition by a foreign company and questioned whether Nippon Steel would honor commitments made to U.S. steelworkers.

"The USW does not believe that Nippon understands the full breadth of the obligations of all our agreements, and we do not know whether it has the capacity to live up to our existing contract," said United Steelworkers president David McCall, who described U.S. Steel's decision to sell to Nippon "greedy" and "shortsighted."

McCall slammed U.S. Steel in a Monday statement for its decision to "push aside the concerns of its dedicated workforce and sell to a foreign-owned company."

The deal will help Nippon, the world's fourth largest steel maker, move toward 100 million tons of global crude steel capacity, while significantly expanding its production in the United States, where steel prices are expected to rise as automakers ramp up production following their recent deals with labor unions to end strikes.

Nippon did not give any projections of the synergies that will arise from the deal that justify the price it will pay. It said the synergies will come from pooling advanced production technology and know-how in product development, operations, energy savings and recycling.

"We feel Nippon is overpaying for those assets. This isn’t the technology space. This is still the cyclical steel industry," said Gordon Johnson, analyst at GLJ Research.

U.S. Steel shares traded up 28 percent at $50.50 in pre-market trading in New York on Monday.

All of U.S. Steel's commitments with its employees, including all collective bargaining agreements in place with its union, will be honored, Nippon said.

The company's executive vice president, Takahiro Mori, told Reuters in an interview that the company had operated in the United States for 40 years and that it was confident the transaction would be completed.

"Standard Steel and Wheeling Nippon Steel that we own are unionized companies in the United States, we have a good history of working with unions. We see no regulatory or antitrust issues with the deal," Mori said.

Nippon's joint venture with Arcelor is not unionized.

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel's shares had suffered after several quarters of falling revenue and profit, making it an attractive takeover target for rivals looking to add a maker of steel used by the automobile industry.

U.S. Steel also supplies to the renewable energy industry and stands to benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provides tax credits and other incentives for such projects, something that attracted suitors.

The transaction with Nippon is expected to close in the second or third quarter of 2024, subject to approvals, U.S. Steel said. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a U.S. panel that scrutinizes deals for potential national security risks, is expected to review the transaction.

Citi is financial adviser to Nippon, while Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs and Evercore are the financial advisers to U. S. Steel.

(Reporting by Shivansh Tiwary and Nathan Gomes in Bangalore, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Rocky Swift in Tokyo and Anirban Sen in New York; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Anil D'Silva, and Nick Zieminski)

Published under: Unions