STEUBENVILLE - Esmark Steel isn't interested in acquiring Wheeling Corrugating's Martins Ferry and Beech Bottom plants if its bid for the division is accepted, spokesman Bill Keegan said.
"Wheeling Corrugating has eight or nine facilities around the country. We're really interested in six of them," Keegan said, adding that Esmark's interest is "based on our operations and the work we do." Esmark Steel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Esmark Inc., headquartered in Sewickley, Pa.
"Martins Ferry and Beech Bottom are paint lines and forming equipment, which we might be able to use elsewhere, but right now our offer excludes any mill-related assets. We're flat-rolled specialists, we feel we have those resources and capabilities elsewhere in our network. Our focus is on select assets at Wheeling Corrugating."
RG Steel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday, just one week after warning workers in Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia of extensive layoffs and plant closings, and hours after workers at the company's Mountain State Carbon, a joint venture with Severstal, learned operations there would be scaled back. Union leaders said the "old block" - three older coke plant batteries - would be "hot-idled," meaning they would be scaled back but could still be returned to service at a later date.
Meanwhile Friday, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Delaware authorized the company to continue paying employees and seemed receptive to RG Steel's plan to continue paying vendors whose goods and services are critical for RG Steel's continued operations, The Associated Press reports. Also, United Steelworkers Union officials met Friday morning to discuss recent events and their impact on workers, though no details were immediately available.
Keegan, though, said the Wheeling Corrugating assets they'd like to purchase are "very complimentary to Esmark's steel processing and distribution network. We believe they would help us expand our operations into steel products used in construction, agricultural and bridge-building markets."
Esmark's bid will be submitted in bankruptcy court next week. At that point, the judge may choose to reveal details of the offer, including the actual bid amount. Keegan did say they'd like the company's former headquarters in Wheeling to be included in the deal, along with Wheeling Corrugating's other six plants.
Esmark Chief Executive Officer Jim Bouchard on Thursday confirmed his interest in reacquiring the corrugating properties, which his family-owned and operated company had operated from 2007-08 after engineering a successful reverse hostile takeover with what was then Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. In 2008 Esmark sold plants in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland to Russia's Severstal, which, in turn, sold them to the now-bankrupt RG Steel a year ago.
Bouchard has since rebuilt his steel services and distribution network, and is in the process of building a $9 million, three-story, 40,000-square-foot global headquarters near Sewickley.