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2016: Steel – Paper #4

Corporate Strategy in the Steel Industry: An Example

For this paper, I ask that you focus on one firm, and indicate the strategic choices it faces as we have set forth this term. Since you have already done two papers on the beer sector, I urge you to instead focus on the steel industry. Is technology relevant? Market segmentation and product differentiation? Mergers and market power? Advertising and marketing?

Please pick one firm in the sector. You can choose an iron ore or coal mining company such as the Rio Tinto group; an integrated steel firm such as JFE Holdings or Tata or Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal; an electric arc firm such as Nucor or Tokyo Steel Co.; a steel processing center or fabricator; or a recycler. You could also do a paper on the US Steel Workers union.

I have listed several companies by name, with a focus on publicly traded firms. That’s advantageous because you can find annual statements and presentations to investors. These typically provide financial data – how volatile have profits been? – but also management’s description of their strategy. That can be quite interest to compare the most recent reports to those of 10 years ago, before the onset of the Great Recession.

You of course have our standard resources in EconPapers, EconLit and citation tracing using Google Scholar. Our own W&L library also has books and similar resources, as does the VMI library with its greater emphasis on engineering. You may also have access to analyst reports; some of those are quite good, some are not. Be very careful of just doing a Google search, as (i) you likely will find far too much material and (ii) filtering out PR and low-quality analysis is a challenge. Know your source!!

The target length is approximately 5 pages of prose, with the normal expectations of good writing using in-line citations, a thorough bibliography of what you use (I suggest entering things into Zotero and choosing the Chicago format), and so on. Be clear on your theme!

Due date: the start of exams on Saturday 9 April 2016. I will be out of town, and I also do not want the paper interfering with your finals.

Note: I am discouraging you from doing a 3rd paper on the beer industry, particularly as the multiple mergers and multinational scope of firms such as AB InBev make it hard to maintain coherence. If you have already done two papers on steel, or otherwise have a firm or industry you would very much like to analyze, contact me in advance!!