Official says USX may have interest in Czech steel

According to the Czech Industry and Trade Minister, the US-based steel company USX U.S. Steel may be interested in acquiring Czech steel makers Nova Hut and Vitkovice. The U.S. company took over the core steel-making operations of troubled steel maker VSZ in neighbouring Slovakia late last year and the two Czech steel makers -- nearing privatisation -- would make a good fit, observers say. The Czech deputy Industry and Trade Minister Frantisek Somol said the interest of U.S. Steel is understandable, because the production of Nova Hut and Vitkovice corresponds to the product line of USX.

USX-U.S. Steel took over VSZ saying it would focus on producing value-added goods like steel sheets used in carmaking. It also vowed to increase efficiency of the plant in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice, which was near financial collapse before USX agreed to buy it for around 450 million USD.

The Czech government is looking to merge the country's biggest steel maker Nova Hut, the Vysoke Pece Ostrava blast-furnace unit, and a division of Vitkovice before selling it to a strategic investor in 2002.