Czech steel processor at odds with U.S. Steel

The privately-owned Czech sheet-metal processor Limart said on Monday it had filed a complaint with the competition authorities against the Slovak unit of U.S. Steel for abusing its dominant position on the local steel market. Limart's Vice-Chairman Martin Prochazka says U.S. Steel is taking steps to prevent Limart from competing for deliveries to important clients. U.S. Steel supplies around 40 percent of Czech steel products. Officials for U.S. Steel in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were not available for comment. The Czech anti-monopoly office, which will hear the complaint, would not comment on the affair.

Though the Czech steel market has been hit hard by the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the stakes in the battle are high. The country is quickly becoming an important auto production centre and demand for steel products is expected to rise sharply in the years to come.

Martin Prochazka said that U.S. Steel stopped supplying Limart late last year after the Czech firm - which has around seven percent of the local market - refused to accept its conditions which it says are discriminatory. Limart has since been forced to find other suppliers to cover the drop-off, estimated to be worth around one billion crowns (or 27 million USD) a year. Limart does not compete directly with its bigger rivals in terms of production capacities, instead using its smaller size to adapt as a just-in-time sheet metal supplier. Limart already supplies Volkswagen's Skoda Auto and the truck-maker Tatra.