After a phase of consolidation in the wake of the financial crisis, investment activity by the voestalpine Group has intensified significantly since the business year 2012/13 in order to facilitate the Group’s accelerated development. In 2013/14, total investment volume amounted to EUR 943.9 million, 10.9% above last year’s figure of EUR 851.5 million.
At EUR 447.4 million, the investment volume of the Steel Division was significantly higher (by 61.3%) than the figure in the last business year (EUR 277.3 million). The division’s long-term direction is not based on an expansion of steel production capacity, but rather on the continued increase in the share of top-quality products. The construction of the continuous annealing line II for the production of premium quality electric strip should be viewed with this background in mind. During the run-up phase, which began at the start of the business year 2014/15, the continuous annealing performed excellently so that it was possible to push start-up of operations forward to the end of April 2014. The construction of the new heavy plate rolling stand, which is scheduled for operational launch in the coming fall, was also planned under the aspect of these new, comprehensive dimensions of quality. The objective is to produce completely new qualities with regard to sour gas resistance and high-tensile strength for the energy sector. In addition to the improvement of the product mix, cost efficiency of production is a key operational and strategic issue. New investments are currently focused on coal injection systems in all three blast furnaces in Linz (Austria) as well as the construction of a direct reduction plant in Texas (USA). While the work on the installation of the coal injection systems is well underway and will be completed in the course of the business year 2014/15, construction of the direct reduction plant is still in a very early phase (for details, please see the chapter ).
The Special Steel Division invested a total of EUR 181.8 million during the business year 2013/14, a drop of 29.3% compared to the previous year’s total (EUR 257.2 million). Growth in this division is being driven primarily by the consistent realization of its value-added strategy in defined industrial segments. In this context, measures have been implemented in important sales regions to expand service activities, such as heat treatment, pre-processing, and coating. Moreover, after the acquisition of the Eifeler Group in the business year 2012/13, production of special coating technologies for high-quality tool steel was driven forward in global growth markets (China, Taiwan). The distribution center in Kapfenberg (Austria) was expanded within the scope of optimization of global distribution of tool steel, high-speed steel, and special materials. Investment measures in special steel production are focused primarily on projects dealing with optimization of quality and productivity. In addition to these main focal points, measures to improve occupational safety and environmental protection, mainly at the Wetzlar/Germany site, were implemented within the scope of a four-year investment program. In the second half of 2013, two investment projects that are groundbreaking for the Special Steel Division were finalized—the new dual rolling stand was put into operation at the Mürzzuschlag (Austria) site and the expansion in capacity for producing powder-metallurgical steels at the Kapfenberg (Austria) site was completed.
Investment activity in the Metal Engineering Division increased by 4.4% from EUR 164.9 million in the business year 2012/13 to EUR 172.1 million in the year under review despite the fact that one of the two blast furnaces at the Donawitz (Austria) site was relined last year. The division’s most important current investment is the construction of a new wire rod mill at the Donawitz (Austria) site; this investment is facilitating the implementation of long-term objectives. The new wire production line is supposed to begin operation in 2016; the Metal Engineering Division will then have Europe’s most modern facility for the production of highest quality wire for the automotive and energy industries. Other investment focal points in the business year 2013/14 were a new walking beam furnace for the rail production facility and several smaller-volume projects in the turnout segment.
The activities of the Metal Forming Division, which reduced its investments from EUR 142.6 million in the business year 2012/13 to EUR 130.6 million in the current reporting period, a decrease of 8.4%, were focused on the implementation of the globalization strategy. The division is ensuring proximity to its strategically important automotive customers as they are expanding by building new plants in the USA, South Africa, and China in order to be able to provide them locally with sophisticated safety-related automobile components that are focused on the new product segment “phs-ultraform” (press-hardened steels based on new technology). The necessary facilities were completed in the past business year and are up and running so that it was possible to begin production for customers as of the start of the business year 2014/15. Other identical or similar plants are in the process of being planned or implemented due to massive customer demand. Similarly to the Automotive business segment, the Tubes & Sections business segment focused its investment activity on continuing internationalization by customers, particularly in the construction and agricultural machinery industries. With the completion of a new sections plant in China, customers who operate internationally in these industries will be supplied with special sections in this growth market from the beginning of the business year 2014/15. In the Precision Strip business segment, the second phase of expansion was completed at the Kematen (Austria) site in the first half of the business year; it is one of the most modern cold rolling centers worldwide for the production of high-quality strip steel.