US steel tariffs will hurt some Asian companies more than others: Nomura

Key Points
  • Smaller South Korean steel companies are likely to be more negatively affected than bigger industry players due to their level of exposure to the U.S., Nomura said in a note.
  • Steel tariffs are expected to only have minor impact on Japan, Nomura added.
  • Asian steel producers traded higher on Monday, recovering from recent declines after President Donald Trump signed off on new tariffs.
Seong Joon Cho | Worldsteel | Getty Images

Recent tariffs on U.S. steel imports will likely hurt some Asian steel producers more than others, according to Nomura.

Smaller South Korean companies are expected to be hit harder than their larger counterparts while Japan will probably experience minor impact after U.S. President Donald Trump last week signed off on tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports, analysts from the research firm said in a note.

Smaller Korean steel companies are likely to be more negatively affected than bigger players due to the level of exposure they have to the U.S.

"Due to the series of anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders imposed in the past couple of years, Posco has reduced U.S. exports significantly, and the U.S. currently represents less than 1 percent of its carbon sales volumes," Nomura analysts Cindy Park, Yoon Ki Kim and Yuji Matsumoto said in a Friday note. Posco is the largest steel producer in South Korea.

For Hyundai Steel, another large Korean steel manufacturer, the U.S. represents around 5 percent of total sales volume.

"A more visible impact will likely be centered around companies such as Seah Steel, Husteel and Nexteel, which have much higher U.S. exposures," the analysts wrote.

Japan is also expected to see limited direct impact, given how just 1.8 percent of its crude steel production and 1.5 percent of steel product output last year were exported to the U.S., according to Nomura.

Those views were similar to what was expressed by ratings agency Moody's in a note last week, when it noted that the direct impact of tariffs would be moderate on Korean steelmakers, to low on other Asian countries.

South Korea and Japan are the third and seventh largest sources of U.S. steel imports, according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Commerce report — they are also the two largest sources of U.S. steel imports from Asia.

Nomura's research, which considers steel imports from the European Union collectively, ranks South Korea and Japan as the overall fourth and eighth largest sources of U.S. steel imports, respectively.

Steel producers in the region traded higher on Monday, recovering from losses recorded in the last session. The Topix Iron & Steel index rose 1.54 percent by midday trade, with Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal up 2.3 percent and JFE Holdings higher by 0.53 percent.

Elsewhere, South Korea's Posco and Hyundai Steel were up 2.9 percent and 1.96 percent, respectively.