The voestalpine Group successfully carried out a number of cutting-edge investments in recent years. These approaches to growth in technologically advanced customer segments went hand in hand with a greater emphasis on regional diversification, both of which enabled the Group to create a bigger footprint globally. The business year 2019/20 marked the onset of a consolidation phase aimed at optimizing these next-generation facilities in daily operations. In the business year 2020/21, the voestalpine Group further reduced its investment activities on account of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Projects deemed to be less urgent were pushed to the back of the line. During the business year 2020/21, the Group trained its focus on generating cash flows and reducing its financial liabilities. This does not affect voestalpine’s fundamental goal of positioning itself in the uppermost quality segment and of pursuing its strategic trailblazing role in the future, too. At EUR 612.1 million, the volume of investments in the business year 2020/21—which was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic— was not only 21.2% less than the volume of EUR 776.7 million invested in the previous year but also fell significantly short of depreciation.
At EUR 154.9 million, investment activity in the Steel Division during the business year 2020/21 was practically the same as in the business year 2019/20 (EUR 151.6 million). When the project activities undertaken over the past two years are considered in relation to depreciation, however, investments made during this period actually are lower on the whole. This stems not least from the fact that the Steel Division undertook state-of-the-art upgrades of its plants and facilities in recent years and is now focused on process optimization. It succeeded nonetheless in completing important projects at its Linz plant in Austria during the business year 2020/21 also. For example, a new straightening machine that serves to manufacture clad plates was started up during the first half of the business year 2020/21. The Steel Service Center invested in a slitting line for high-tensile hot-rolled strip. In the steel plant itself, the crane track girders were replaced toward the end of calendar year 2020. Detailed plans for the “BETA 3” pickling line, a major trailblazing project, were drawn up during the reporting period, in effect launching the project. BETA 3 will be integrated into existing Cold Rolling Mill 3 and thus will be key to the division’s cutting-edge product mix once it has been completed.
The High Performance Metals Division, which is building the new special steel plant in Kapfenberg, Austria, currently accounts for the voestalpine Group’s single-largest investment. At EUR 219.3 million, this division’s investments in the business year 2020/21 still fell somewhat short of the preceding year’s level (EUR 259.1 million). While the construction work in Kapfenberg is slightly behind schedule due to the difficult environment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, important aspects of the project were completed during the business year 2020/21 nonetheless. The steel girders for the factory building were already erected toward the end of the business year 2019/20, the foundations of the plant’s facilities were laid in the subsequent business year. The assembly of units for mechanical components; for connecting the mill to water, gas, and other utilities; as well as the electrics was completed next. The smelting and casting facilities will be completed in the business year 2021/22, and the start-up of this state-of-the-art special steel plant is now slated for the Northern summer of 2022. During the reporting period, investments were made in a Kapfenberg facility for manufacturing titanium powder used in 3D printing. Titanium is also important as a material for voestalpine BÖHLER Bleche, a company whose plant is located in Mürzzuschlag, Austria. This plant benefited from an investment in the technological development of the production capacities required for manufacturing titanium sheets pursuant to a general agreement related to the aerospace industry. A high-tech fast forge press for highly stress-resistant components of aircraft turbines was started up in the Northern fall of 2020 at voestalpine BÖHLER Aerospace GmbH in Kapfenberg. Production capacities for electroslag remelting (ESR) were expanded at Villares in Sumaré, Brazil, during the business year 2020/21. This investment serves to continue upgrading the company’s product range in both high-quality tool steel and nickel-based alloys.
In the business year 2020/21, the investments of the Metal Engineering Division were EUR 129.6 million and thus 28.4% less than in the business year 2019/20 (EUR 181.0 million). This division’s investment projects focused on boosting its metallurgical production facilities that supply high-quality pre-materials to the finishing operations. The biggest project—i.e., Continuous Casting Plant 4 (CC4)—was successfully started up in the Northern summer of 2020. The new CC4 thus constitutes the core of steel production at the Donawitz facility. The latter’s unique combination of state-of-the-art plant and process technology will facilitate yet further quality improvements in the production of steel grades. Scheduled interim blast furnace repairs (relining) were also carried out in Donawitz and completed in the Northern fall of 2020. Given the difficult market environment in the Industrial Systems business segment, the newly relined blast furnace was not started up again until the beginning of calendar year 2021.
Investments of the Metal Forming Division in the business year 2020/21 declined year over year by 41.3%, from EUR 170.0 million to EUR 99.8 million. Although Automotive Components focused chiefly on process optimization at its existing facilities, important new projects were implemented as needed. For example, the division built a digitalization center in Schmölln, Germany, that will be used as a service center for the entire Automotive Components business segment. The division’s plant in East London, South Africa, was expanded and equipped with additional robots and welding facilities. The start of construction of what is already the fourth phs-ultraform® line in Shenyang, China, constitutes the Metal Forming Division’s second substantial investment at an international location during the reporting period. The Tubes & Sections business segment invested in additional welding and assembly facilities in Krems, Austria, to respond to the boom in online commerce. The now fourth hydrogen plant was started up at voestalpine Precision Strip in Kematen, Austria, at the end of calendar year 2020. This taps into sustainable process advantages in the hardening of strip steel.