Court rules U.S. Steel Canada can sell Hamilton, Nanticoke mills

U.S. Steel Canada was in court on Tuesday, making the case it's time to put its Hamilton and Nanticoke mills up for sale - again.

Steelworkers, province accuse American company of rushing a sale to liquidate Canadian operations

U.S. Steel Canada is in court Tuesday seeking approval to put its Hamilton and Nanticoke mills up for sale. (John Rieti/CBC)

Despite opposition from the union representing active and retired steelworkers, a court ruled Tuesday that U.S. Steel Canada will be able to put its Hamilton and Nanticoke mills up for sale. 

Union lawyer Barbara Walancik confirmed the ruling Tuesday night. The union had filed arguments opposing the sale which was proposed by the newly-created U.S. Steel Canada.

The union had opposed the timing of the sale offering, arguing the American U.S. Steel (USS) — which also wants liquidation put on the table as an option — was meddling in the sale process of the Canadian operations (USSC) in order to run the Canadian operation into the ground. 

The Canadian  company is now set to enter the sale and investment solicitation process for the second time. The new process would give it until Oct. 31 to sell to off all or parts of the production Hamilton and Nanticoke. And according to United Steelworkers union reps, there are at least four companies interested in buying.

The union had argued that the American company has shown it it isn't interested in efforts to "revitalize" the steelmaking operations at Hamilton and Nanticoke.

However, one compromise was reached. The union will be able to put together its own restructuring plan to be considered alongside other offers in the sale process, Walancik said. 

The steelworkers say they've been working with two former Stelco vice presidents on a restructuring plan to keep the company going, but said putting the plants up for sale before such a plan could take root is premature. 

Tuesday's sale motion was a second attempt at finding a willing buyer, a move agreed to last October, when U.S. Steel Canada company severed from its American parent company. That deal halted the first and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to find a buyer. Now, the new process USSC would get non-binding letters of interest from companies by Feb. 29. 

The province also opposed USSC's motion to put the mills up for sale. 

The province said it wants to see a "fair and reasonable" sales process that "properly and robustly canvasses the market," according to a document filed in court on Friday. The proposed sale process "does not consider that the [sale] in the form being sought will do so."

USSC will also start a six-day claims trail on Thursday, when the court will determine whether U.S. Steel is owed $2.2 billion. That decision will determine the impact the debt has on the restructuring process.


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