United States Steel Earnings Call Insights: Impact of Gulf Drilling and Kosice Strategies

United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Impact of Gulf Drilling

Shneur Gershuni – UBS: I’ve got two questions. The first one on Tubular, the second one on flat-rolled, starting with Tubular, the fourth quarter was definitely a difficult quarter. I understand that it’s expected to be better, but it sounds like it’s going to be challenged compared to some of the numbers we’ve seen in previous quarters. There is supposed to be a pickup in drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico, this year. I was kind of wondering when we would see that impact and then despite the fact that, the flattish to downish rig counts we might actually see more well counts and longer laterals and so forth, as U.S. Steel expected to benefit from that as well too or is the tepid guidance, a lot of it has to do with the imports coming in and sort of taking away some of the opportunities?

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John P. Surma – Chairman and CEO: I’ll take a stab. There’s lots there Shneur. I think the Gulf of Mexico has been a good news story for us already. I think the rig count was at 50 and maybe went back to 48 in the last day or two. There must be something moving some place but, that’s the best level of activity in the Gulf I in quite some time and it’s a very good place for us. We have some of the larger diameter (heavy to wall) capabilities at both Fairfield and also in Lorraine and we are booking those mills quite well for that business. So we’ve already had some of that, the more that goes on in the Deep Gulf in particular the better it suits our particular facilities and more is better. So we encourage them to continue to keep drilling and those are great prospects and once they discover a well and develop it in a big platform and 16 or 18 additional wells that’s good for us and we hope that, that would continue. In terms of the I need to really ask as how much footage will be drilled and what does that mean for us and we have I guess at the rig count for 2013, we see what other prognosticators who probably did more than we do, say we’d take a look at what the oil field service folks have said couple of them have already reported and we look at that pretty carefully of course. There is certainly a move to longer laterals where that’s geologically possible because the productivity is quite good and they are really good at doing it. That suits our product really well, our alloy heat treat shipments were at a record level for us in 2012 and that’s one of the reasons. And additionally the rig efficiency in terms of how long it takes to get down to get out, to get fracs and to get in production is really, really good I mean they’ve turned this into an outstanding operation in terms of manufacturing process as we see it. It may well be that even with lower rig counts that the actual number of wells drilled could be higher the amount of footage could well be similar or higher than last year. So I think in our view the overall demand probably is similar to last year maybe little bit higher. We think the demand and things that we are particularly good at, Deep Gulf and some of the alloy heat treat demand should be as good as last year. we hope there is of course the specter of imports which are well over 50% as I noted the extent of that’s mostly on the lower end carbon it’s not in our zone directly although we do some of that, but it does effect the overall structure from a pricing standpoint in inventory level. So, we’re very mindful of that and we’re mindful of where it’s coming from and what their costs are, we think and what the prices are we can see and that’s something we have to take in mind and decide if we take action that may well be something we do. So, I think, you’ve diagnosed it pretty well. All those things are in there. We think the picture for 2013 can be pretty good, but just looking out for the first quarter we’re coming from a slower start and we’ll see how we do quarter-by-quarter.