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YOUNGSTOWN LTV makes progress in sale of Copperweld



Published: Tue, January 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Companies are interested in buying the remaining operations of LTV Corp.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- As a potential buyer gets ready to restart LTV's Warren coke plant, LTV says it is pleased with progress in selling another division employing about 120 in Youngstown.

Other companies have expressed interest in buying LTV Copperweld, which employs about 3,700 nationwide and is the only part of LTV still operating, said Mark Tomasch, a spokesman for the Cleveland-based company.

He said he couldn't comment further but added that there is no timetable for a sale.

LTV has hired the Blackstone Group to market the metal fabricating business.

Sales figures: LTV Copperweld has annual sales of about $1 billion. In bankruptcy court last month, LTV officials testified that the unit is profitable but still being sold as the company is liquidated.

In Youngstown, LTV Copperweld has the headquarters of the unit's pipe and conduit division and a tubular pipe plant.

LTV Copperweld has these divisions: fabricated automotive components, which is based in Canada; bimetallic products, which is based in Tennessee and makes wire and strip products; tubular products, based in Pittsburgh; and the pipe and conduit division.

Judge William Bodoh approved terminating LTV's union contract last month at its idled steel mills and coke plants. The contract still is in effect at Copperweld plants, however.

Wednesday, the judge will hold a hearing on the proposed sale of LTV's Warren coke plant.

LTV has reached an agreement with Warren Coke Corp., an affiliate of Tonawanda Coke Corp. of Tonawanda, N.Y. The company has a coke plant just north of Buffalo, N.Y.

Other companies could submit bids before or at the hearing.

Taking applications: Tonawanda was accepting applications from LTV workers Monday and today at the Warren YMCA. The company wants to have a work force in place in case it is successful in court Wednesday, workers said.

Whether the plant would be a union shop would be decided later.

The agreement with LTV calls for Tonawanda to buy the plant for $1.

LTV said in a motion filed with the court that the sale would allow it to escape from large costs that would arise if it can't sell the plant and has to shut it down. LTV said closing the plant would cost about $2 million and there would be environmental costs that would be more costly.

LTV officials said in court last month that environmental laws would require expensive cleanup efforts once the plant is closed.

LTV has said it will close the plant Friday if it isn't sold. The plant is idling until then. Once the furnaces are shut down, they would suffer severe damage.

The plant has 185 hourly workers and 30 salaried workers.

Taking over: Meanwhile, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal government agency that will take over bankrupt LTV Steel's pension plan, has established a toll-free information line, (800) 707-7242, for retirees and LTV plan participants who have general questions.

PBGC has not yet taken over the plan, however, and cannot answer specific questions about individual participants' benefits.

Personnel also will not accept questions about medical benefits, life insurance or defined contribution retirement savings plans, such as 401(k) plans, because they are not covered by PBGC pension insurance.

LTV Steel, which has about 7,000 people laid off, is idling three steel mills and two coke plants in the hopes of selling them.

LTV filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2000, but last November it said it would be forced to liquidate because it was out of customers and nearly out of cash.

shilling@vindy.com




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