UPDATE 1-Voestalpine to build new iron ore plant in Texas
* Voestapine to invest 550 mln euros in new plant
* Operations to begin in 2016
* CEO says project would have been impossible in EU
VIENNA, March 13 (Reuters) - Austrian steel group Voestalpine has picked the U.S. state of Texas for a new North American iron ore plant in which it will invest around 550 million euros ($716 million).
Voestalpine, one of a number of European industrial companies looking to the United States for its cheap energy costs, said on Wednesday the plant was due to begin operations in early 2016 and would employ about 150 people.
"This is impressive evidence of the USA's efforts to rapidly and sustainably reindustrialise their economy," Chief Executive Wolfgang Eder said in a statement.
"It would have been impossible to build a comparable plant in the European Union, not least because of a lack of competitiveness in terms of operating costs."
The project will entail the largest foreign investment to date by Voestalpine, which wants to boost its sales by two-thirds to 20 billion euros by 2020 through aggressive expansion in the Americas and Asia.
Voestalpine said half the new plant's annual production of 2 million tonnes of hot briquetted iron (HBI) would be shipped to its steel mills in Linz and Donzwitz in Austria for steel production, with the remainder serving as a strategic reserve.
Voestalpine shares were down 1.8 percent to 26.13 euros by 0902 GMT, underperforming the European basic resources index , which was down 0.6 percent.