The voestalpine Group pressed ahead with numerous significant investments in the business year 2022/23. This included the completion of the construction phase of the world’s most advanced special steel plant in Kapfenberg, Austria. The voestalpine Group’s largest project in recent years will be started up in the business year 2023/24. The Steel Division’s largest investment project—the construction of a fully automated pickling line with tandem cold mill—has also reached a very advanced stage. Preparatory work for climate-friendly steelmaking in Austria was carried out at the Group’s production plants in Linz and Donawitz (both in Austria) during the reporting period as well. As of the end of March 2023, the Supervisory Board of voestalpine AG has given the green light for a total investment volume of EUR 1.5 billion for decarbonization purposes. On the whole, the voestalpine Group’s investments in tangible and intangible assets in the business year just ended come to EUR 922.0 million, surpassing the previous business year’s level of EUR 708.4 million by 30.2%.
In 2022/23, the Steel Division invested EUR 310.0 million, which equates to a year-over-year increase of 28.7% (2021/22: EUR 240.8 million). Key sections of its major project, which involves a pickling line with tandem cold mill (“Beta 3”) in Linz, Austria, have been completed. In addition to the coil storage facility, the pickling factory floor where the fully digitalized system will be housed has also been built. The foundation work was also carried out during the reporting period. As the planned delivery of the process plants and their assembly is the next step in the project’s implementation, completion of Beta 3 is still slated for the end of calendar year 2023. The pickling line, which has a capacity of about two million tons and is integrated into cold rolling mill 3, is a key to the future in that it will further optimize the processing of high and ultra-high tensile steel, as well as of larger dimensions and lower thicknesses. In addition, the new facility is perfectly suited to the production of electrical steel strip for applications in e-mobility. The refitting of the hot-dip galvanizing lines at the Linz plant will also serve to boost quantities with regard to ultra-high tensile steel grades. The focus in the reporting period was on implementing projects related to hot-dip galvanizing line 4. Finally, the engineering for refitting hot-dip galvanizing lines 2 and 5 was launched in the fourth business quarter. According to the planned schedule, the upgrades of the hot-dip galvanizing lines will continue through to calendar year 2027. The approval of the decarbonization plan by voestalpine’s Supervisory Board at the end of March 2023 is an important milestone in the pursuit of climate-friendly steelmaking in Linz. According to the greentec steel project plan, decisions regarding facilities and suppliers for the investment in an electric arc furnace will be made before the end of calendar year 2023; the plant’s construction is planned for 2024 and its commissioning for 2027. The preparatory work for the new special steel plant, entailing the necessary construction site clearance along with infrastructure modification work, was launched in the business year 2022/23. Plans for repairing blast furnace 5 were also made during the reporting period. It will undergo further repairs during the Northern summer of calendar year 2023 and will then be replaced in 2027 by the first electric arc furnace (EAF) at the Linz site.
At EUR 245.6 million, the investments of the High Performance Metals Division in the business year 2022/23 were 18.6% higher than the EUR 207.0 million invested in the previous business year. The construction phase of the state-of-the-art special steel plant was completed some four years after the official groundbreaking ceremony in calendar year 2018. The integrated cold start-up, which serves to test both the functionality and the interactions of a range of machinery, was also carried out during the business year just ended. The smelting tests performed as part of the hot commissioning toward the end of the business year 2022/23 involved filling the electric arc furnace with scrap for the very first time and smelting it with the help of smelting electrodes. The process of certifying the range of products at the new facilities will be carried out in the business year 2023/24. Both the new and the old special steel plants in Kapfenberg will be operated simultaneously during the transition phase up to the completion of the certification process. Once the new plant is fully operational, it will not only set new technological standards on account of its high degree of digitalization but also require extremely well-trained personnel. These employees will acquire the qualifications they need with regard to robotics, sensor technology, or data analysis through an in-house competence center for digital transformation. The new special steel plant focuses not least on steelmaking that protects the environment and conserves resources. According to the plans, the heat from the smelters is to be released to the district heating system; the cooling will be achieved via a closed circuit; and the plant as a whole will be highly energy efficient. Furthermore, customers in the automotive, consumer goods, and aerospace industry, as well as in the oil and natural gas sector, will be supplied with even better steel grades in the future. The Value Added Services business segment continued to push the global expansion of its service activities in the reporting period. Its investments in this respect focused on expanding its heat treatment, processing, and coating capacities as well as on rolling out additive manufacturing (3D printing) of components.
The Metal Engineering Division raised its investment expenditure by 59.6% to EUR 195.2 million in the business year 2022/23, compared with EUR 122.3 million in the previous business year. The planned blast furnace repairs (“relining”) at the Donawitz plant in Austria were carried out during the Northern summer of calendar year 2022. Following the roughly two-month relining phase, blast furnace 1 was restarted at the end of September 2022 together with a new hot-blast stove. A decisive setting of the agenda took place toward the end of the reporting period: The Supervisory Board of voestalpine AG approved the budget for the construction of an electric arc furnace in Donawitz. Work to clear the future construction site, and thus the initial preparatory steps for the decarbonization of steel production in Donawitz, was initiated during the business year just ended. The start-up of the EAF is planned for calendar year 2027; it will help to significantly reduce Austria’s CO2 emissions. The Tubulars business segment invested in a comprehensive overhaul of the rotary hearth furnace at the Kindberg plant in Austria, which heats the pre-material blocks to up to 1,400 degrees. This investment project will probably be completed in the current business year 2023/24.
The EUR 152.9 million investment expenditure of the Metal Forming Division in the business year 2022/23 surpassed the previous business year’s level of EUR 125.6 million by 21.7%. The Automotive Components business segment pushed the ongoing expansion of its plant in Shenyang, China, during the reporting period. The construction of what is already the fifth phs facility for forming press-hardened steel in Shenyang will enable key customers to boost their international growth. The Tubes & Sections business segment also carried out a significant plant expansion in the business year just ended. Numerous new customer orders made it necessary to expand the segment’s production capacities in Środa Śląska, Poland, so that it can manufacture tube components for the global automotive supplier industry. The Warehouse & Rack Solutions business segment invested in its first production facility in North America with the aim of pushing its growth strategy there. It decided to use the existing plant of the Metal Forming Division in Shelbyville, Kentucky, USA, as the site for building up its own storage system production facility; tubes and sections have been manufactured here for decades. The first phase of this work involved the purchase of three sectioning lines, which will likely be brought online before the first half of the current business year 2023/24 is out.