Universal Stainless & Alloy Products, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, which was incorporated in 1994, manufactures and markets semi-finished and finished specialty steel products, including stainless steel, tool steel and certain other alloyed steels. The Company’s manufacturing process involves melting, remelting, heat treating, hot and cold rolling, machining and cold drawing of semi-finished and finished specialty steels. The Company’s products are sold to rerollers, forgers, service centers, original equipment manufacturers (“OEMs”) and wire redrawers. The Company’s customers further process its products for use in a variety of industries, including the aerospace, power generation, petrochemical and heavy equipment manufacturing industries. The Company also performs conversion services on materials supplied by customers that lack certain of the Company’s production facilities or that are subject to their own capacity constraints.
The Company is comprised of three operating locations and one corporate headquarters. For segment reporting, the Bridgeville and Titusville facilities have been aggregated into one reportable segment, Universal Stainless & Alloy Products. Dunkirk Specialty Steel represents the second reportable segment.
The Company’s products are manufactured in a wide variety of grades, widths and gauges in response to customer specifications. At its Bridgeville facility, the Company produces specialty steel products in the form of long products (ingots, blooms, billets and bars) and flat rolled products (slabs and plates). Certain grades requiring vacuum-arc remelting (“VAR”) may be transported to the Titusville facility to complete that process and then be transported back to the Bridgeville facility for further processing. The semi-finished long products are primarily used by the Company’s Dunkirk facility and certain customers to produce finished bar, rod and wire products, and the semi-finished flat rolled products are used by customers to produce light-gauge plate, sheet and strip products. The finished bar products manufactured by the Company are primarily used by OEMs and by service center customers for distribution to a variety of end users. The Company also produces customized shapes primarily for OEMs that are cold rolled from purchased coiled strip, flat bar or extruded bar at its Precision Rolled Products department (“PRP”), located at its Titusville facility.
The specialty steel industry is a relatively small but distinct segment of the overall steel industry. Specialty steels include stainless steels, high-speed and tool steels, electrical steels, high-temperature alloys, magnetic alloys and electronic alloys. Specialty steels are made with a high alloy content, which enables their use in environments that demand exceptional hardness, toughness, strength and resistance to heat, corrosion or abrasion, or combinations thereof. Specialty steels generally must conform to more demanding customer specifications for consistency, straightness and surface finish than carbon steels. According to the Specialty Steel Industry of North America (“SSINA”), annual domestic consumption of specialty steels approximated 2.3 million tons in 2008. Of this amount, approximately 1.6 million tons of specialty steels consumed domestically represented stainless steel sheet and strip and electrical alloy products which the Company does not produce. Also, according to SSINA data through October 31, 2009, U.S. consumption of total specialty steel products in 2009 decreased 36% from 2008 levels. The consumption of those products in the Company’s addressable market, comprising stainless steel bar, rod and wire products, decreased by 38.9%, 47.2% and 42.2%, respectively.
The Company primarily manufactures its products within the following product lines and, generally, in response to customer orders:
Stainless Steel. Stainless steel, which represents the largest part of the specialty steel market, contains elements such as nickel, chrome and molybdenum that give it the unique qualities of high strength, good wear characteristics, natural attractiveness, ease of maintenance and resistance to rust, corrosion and heat. Stainless steel is used, among other applications, in the automotive, aerospace and power generation industries, as well as in the manufacture of food handling, health and medical, chemical processing and pollution control equipment. The increased number of applications for stainless steel has resulted in the development of a greater variety of stainless steel metallurgical grades than carbon steel.
Tool Steel. Tool steels contain elements of manganese, silicon, chrome and molybdenum to produce specific hardness characteristics that enable tool steels to form, cut, shape and shear other materials in the manufacturing process. Heating and cooling at precise rates in the heat-treating process bring out these hardness characteristics. Tool steels are utilized in the manufacturing of metals, plastics, paper and aluminum extrusions, pharmaceuticals, electronics and optics.
High-Temperature Alloy Steel. These steels are designed to meet critical requirements of heat resistance and structural integrity. They generally have very high nickel content relative to other types of specialty steels. High-temperature alloy steels are manufactured for use generally in the aerospace industry.
High-Strength Low Alloy Steel. High-strength low alloy steel is a relative term that refers to those steels that maintain alloying elements that range in versatility. The alloy element of nickel, chrome and molybdenum in such steels typically exceeds the alloy element of carbon steels but not that of high-temperature alloy steel. High-strength low alloy steels are manufactured for use generally in the aerospace industry.
The Company’s Bridgeville facility depends on the delivery of key raw materials for its day-to-day operations. These key raw materials are ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal and alloys, primarily consisting of nickel, chrome, molybdenum and copper. Scrap metal is primarily generated by industrial sources and is purchased through a number of scrap brokers and dealers. Alloys are generally purchased from domestic agents and originate in Australia, Canada, China, Russia and South Africa. Political disruptions in countries such as these could cause supply interruptions and affect the availability and price of the raw materials purchased by the Company.
The Bridgeville facility supplies semi-finished specialty steel products as starting materials to the Company’s Titusville and Dunkirk facilities. Semi-finished specialty steel starting materials, not capable of being produced by the Company at a competitive cost, are purchased from other suppliers. The Company generally purchases these starting materials from steel strip coil suppliers, extruders, flat rolled producers and service centers. The Company believes that adequate supplies of starting material will continue to be available.
The cost of raw materials represents more than 50% of the Company’s total cost of products sold in 2009 and 2008. Raw material costs can be impacted by significant price changes. Raw material prices vary based on numerous factors, including quality, and are subject to frequent market fluctuations. Future raw material prices can not be predicted with any degree of certainty. Therefore, the Company does not maintain any long-term written agreements with any of its raw material suppliers.
The Company has implemented a sales price surcharge mechanism on its products to help offset the impact of raw material price fluctuations. For substantially all stainless semi-finished products, the surcharge is calculated at the time of order entry, based on current raw material prices. For substantially all finished products and tool steel plate, the surcharge is calculated based on the monthly average raw material prices two months prior to the promised ship date. While the material surcharge mechanism is designed to offset modest fluctuations in raw material prices, it cannot immediately absorb significant spikes in raw material prices. A material change in raw material prices within a short period of time could have a material effect on the financial results of the Company, and there can be no assurance that the raw material surcharge mechanism will completely offset immediate changes in the Company’s raw material costs.
The production of specialty steel requires the ready availability of substantial amounts of electricity and natural gas for which the Company negotiates competitive agreements for the supply of electricity and natural gas. While the Company believes that its energy agreements allow it to compete effectively within the specialty steel industry, the potential of curtailments exists as a result of decreased supplies during periods of increased demand for electricity and natural gas. These interruptions not only can adversely affect the operating performance of the Company, but also can lead to increased costs. The Company has a sales price surcharge mechanism on its products to help offset the impact of natural gas price fluctuations.
The Company’s customer base increased from 545 customers at December 31, 2008 to 568 customers at December 31, 2009. The Company’s five largest customers in the aggregate accounted for approximately 38% and 45% of sales for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Sales to Fry Steel Company accounted for 10.8%, 10.7% and 13.8% of the Company’s sales for the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, respectively, and 7%, 4% and 1% of total accounts receivable at December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, respectively. For 2008 and 2007, Carpenter Technology Corporation (“CRS”) accounted for 15.3% and 13.2%, respectively, of sales and 9% and 16%, respectively of accounts receivable. For 2007, Reliance Steel and Aluminum Co. accounted for 10.5% of sales and 4% of accounts receivable. No other customers accounted for more than 10% of the Company’s sales for those years. Sales outside of the United States approximated 10% of 2009 sales and 4% of both 2008 and 2007 sales. In 2009, sales to Mexico approximated 6% of sales.