Beth Steel to close 2 stainless operations; Both were Lukens plants; 540 stand to lose jobs; Metals


Bethlehem Steel Corp. yesterday said it will cut 540 jobs by closing its stainless steel plants in Washington, Pa., and Massillon, Ohio, acquired as part of its May 1998 acquisition of Lukens Inc.

The company had tried to sell the two plants, which have been rolling up losses, but has been unable to do so. The units of Washington Steel will be shut down as customer orders are filled during the first quarter. Efforts to sell the business will continue, said spokeswoman Bette Kovach.

In a related matter, Bethlehem said it agreed to sell its Washington Specialty Metals Corp. subsidiary to Ryerson Tull Inc. for about $70 million. Ryerson Tull is a majority owned subsidiary of Inland Steel Industries, a leading processor and distributor of metals. Washington Specialty Metals processes and distributes stainless steel products throughout the United States and Canada.

The deal should close during the first quarter, the companies said.

"We are pleased to have entered into an agreement with Ryerson Tull for the sale of Washington Specialty Metals," said Curtis H. "Hank" Barnette, chairman and chief executive of Bethlehem Steel. "The transaction is another step in our planned exit from the stainless sheet and distribution businesses acquired in our merger with Lukens Inc."

The plant closings announced yesterday will result in about 340 lost jobs in Pennsylvania and 200 in Ohio. A Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice -- more familiarly known as the "Plant Closing Act" notice -- has been issued to comply with federal laws requiring advance notice of at least 60 days when a major facility is to be closed.

Employees will be given benefits summaries and assistance finding new jobs, Bethlehem said.

In November, Bethlehem closed the sale of its Houston, Pa., melting and hot-rolling facilities and the wide anneal and pickle line at Massilon.

Bethlehem has said it wants to concentrate on its core business: carbon and alloy steel.

It also said the losses that mandated the divestiture were accelerated by what the company labeled as the "unprecedented levels of unfairly traded foreign steel imports, and Bethlehem's inability to sell the business."

Shares in Bethlehem Steel fell 50 cents to $10.0625 yesterday.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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