Russel Metals Inc. says U.S. tariffs on steel imports are "nothing but positive" for Canada's only publicly traded steel distributor and processor. Other companies north of the boarder say tariffs will result in higher costs that will ultimately be passed onto customers.
"The impact for us can be nothing but positive because higher steel prices are good for us," Chief Financial Officer Marion Britton said in a phone interview, adding that Mississauga, Ontario-based Russel has operations in both Canada and the U.S. and does very little cross-border trade. "We are not impacted like a Canadian steel mill because we don't ship anything to the U.S.," she said.
Still, Russel shares fell for an eighth straight day Friday, losing as much as 2.7 percent to C$29.23, the lowest since December. The decline came amid broader market jitters after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he plans to slap tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports and tweeted Friday that "trade wars are good, and easy to win."
Russel shares are down about 8.5 percent since reaching a recent high in mid-February. The company, which distributes steel as well as processes it into products according to their customer's specifications, derives about 30 percent of its revenues from the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Russel announced an agreement to buy North Carolina-based DuBose Steel for an undisclosed sum on Feb. 21 and was slated to meet with fixed-income investors.
Frederic Bastien, analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc., said further volatility in steel prices has positive implications for Russel.
"If given the choice, wouldn't you rather earn 20 percent gross margin on $1,000 per ton than on $800 per ton? So would RUS management," Bastien wrote in a note, reiterating his outperform rating on the stock.
Other Canadian companies and industries are forecasting higher costs that will likely be passed onto customers:
The key will be finding out if Canada and others are exempt from the tariffs as it's not clear if the U.S. has adequate capacity to meet its domestic needs for steel and aluminum, said Linamar Corp. Chief Executive Officer Linda Hasenfratz.
It will take "quite some time" to turn that capacity on if it doesn't exist and would have a significant impact on many industries as those costs will be passed on to consumers and negatively impact demand, she said.
Steel and aluminum are key inputs for the frame and components of the buses that New Flyer Industries builds, said David White, executive vice president of supply management for the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based company, the largest transit bus manufacturer in North America. While the company primarily builds its buses and coaches with U.S. steel and aluminum, tariffs at that level would raise overall prices regardless of their origin and potentially impact the North American supply chain and the outcome of Nafta, he said.
Earlier trade spats over softwood lumber ended up pushing more shipments to Canada's Pacific Coast port and exports to China and other Asian markets surged, said Robin Silvester, chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. There's a possibility the "thickening of the border" could result in increased trade with Asia again, he said. The port handles nearly a quarter of Canada's non-U.S. trade.
The tariffs would likely hurt Canada's oil and gas industry, which relies on metals for pipelines and much of its equipment, said Dinara Millington, vice president of research at the Canadian Energy Research Institute. "It would be an increase in costs -- that would be the direct impact," she said. "Your prices are going to be higher for the goods and products you're purchasing,"