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US Steel eyes overseas expansion

US Steel Corp. is looking for growth possibilities in Europe, where it wants to expand its product mix to serve the burgeoning auto industry in Central Europe, the chief of the nation's leading steelmaker said Wednesday.

By increasing the products at its operations in Serbia and Slovakia, Pittsburgh-based US Steel can be in a better position to serve automakers in a region that many are referring to as a new "Detroit," said US Steel CEO John P. Surma at Pittsburgh Technology Council breakfast briefing at the Omni William Penn, Downtown. Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. are among the automakers that have located assembly plants in Slovakia. To serve those customers' demands for high-quality coated steel, US Steel last year constructed a $160 million galvanizing line at its Kosice plant in Slovakia. The facility is producing galvanized steel now for the construction industry, but it should be able to produce products for automotive and appliance customers by June, Surma said. While US Steel is not looking to boost steelmaking capacity in Central Europe, it will look to acquire raw materials, possibly in Russia or Ukraine, to serve those plants, Surma said.

US Steel has looked at expanding its presence in Europe through acquisitions, but has failed, said steel analyst Charles Bradford in New York. "It's pretty expensive to buy companies," Bradford said. US Steel European operations make it one of the largest integrated flat-rolled steel producers in Central Europe. It acquired the Kosice plant in November 2000, and acquired three plants in Serbia when it bought the Serbian steel company Sartid in November 2003. US Steel's Europe operations in 2006 contributed $3.96 billion of the company's $15.7 billion in sales, an increase from sales of $3.33 billion in 2005, the company said. Central, southern and western Europe are the primary market for the products US Steel's European operations produce. (