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Son Of Billionaire Steel Magnate Plunges To His Death Amid Demise Of UK Industry

Angad Paul, chief executive of Caparo Holdings, had done a lot of things in his 45 years. 

He created the world’s fastest road-legal car, for instance. The Caparo T1.

He also executive produced the classic “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels":

Aside from supercars and gangster movies, Paul was, to quote FT, one of the Midlands’ leading industrialists as the head of Caparo Holdings. He was the son of Lord Paul, the 84 year old billionaire steel magnate who's one the UK's wealthiest people. Paul replaced his father as CEO nearly two decades ago. 

We're using the past tense here because on Sunday, Paul tragically fell from "high up" at his home in London. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Here's the statement from a Met spokesperson:

“London ambulance service and London’s air ambulance both attended and the man, believed to be in his mid-40s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

“London fire brigade have also been called to the scene to assist with the recovery of the body. The man’s next of kin has been informed, although we still await formal identification. Enquiries into the circumstances of the incident continue but it is being treated as non-suspicious at this stage.”

The timing of the "accident" raises questions. Caparo was placed in administration last month in what was characterized as a "shattering, devasting hammer blow" to the UK's steel industry. For those who might have missed it, The Telegraph reported the following in mid-October:

"The crisis in Britain’s steel industry could be about to claim another victim, with parts of Labour peer Lord Paul’s Caparo empire under enormous pressure.

 

Caparo Industries, a major producer of steel products with 1,800 staff across 20 sites, was understood to be looking at all funding options over the weekend.

 

Lord Paul – one of the country’s 50 wealthiest people, with a fortune estimated at £2bn – has a large stake in the privately-owned business through its parent company, Caparo Group. 

And then, two days later, there was this (again from The Telegraph):

Britain’s beleaguered steel industry has been dealt a “shattering” and “devastating hammer” blow after Caparo Industries went into administration, with doubts over the future of its 1,700 staff.

 

The global business, which has about 20 sites in the Midlands as well as operations sites in India and the US, filed for administration as pressure on the steel industry intensifies.

 

The problems at Caparo, first revealed on Monday by The Telegraph, came ahead of an announcement expected on Tuesday from Tata that it will slash up to 1,200 jobs at its steel plants in Scunthorpe and Scotland. It follows the closure of SSI in Redcar with the loss of 2,000 jobs.

 

Britain’s largest union, Unite, warned of a “domino effect” in the steel industry, as it renewed calls for the Government to step in to support the sector following Caparo Industries’ collapse.

 

“This is yet another hammer blow for steel and manufacturing communities already reeling from the closure of Redcar and job losses at Tata,” said Tony Burke, the union’s general secretary. “Ministers need to ask themselves how many more steel firms need to go to the wall before they step in. Failure to act could lead to a 'domino effect’ taking hold across the industry.”

Finally, more color from FT:

Caparo, which comprises about 20 companies, was placed in administration last month, leading to the loss of 323 jobs and the closure of Black Country plants at Darlaston, Dudley and West Bromwich.

 

Its activities range from the forging and pressing of metal products for aerospace, automotive and other industries. It also produces fastenings, wire, tubes and other accessories.

 

The UK company is part of a global network of businesses under the Caparo name, with operations in China, India and the US.

 

In addition to steel, Caparo’s global business is also involved in product development, materials testing services, hotels, media, furniture and interior design, financial services, energy and private equity investment.

 

PwC, the administrators, said at the time of their appointment that 1,700 West Midlands jobs were at risk.

It isn't difficult to guess how this came about. Excess capacity in China (a topic we've covered exhaustively) and the now ubiquitous exported deflation effectively killed the industry

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has called for an EU-wide emergency summit on steel. This is due to be held with the next fortnight. At the event he is expected to campaign for European consent to the UK’s early introduction of the energy compensation package and for co-ordinated EU action to stop China dumping excess steel on international markets.

 

 

From BNP, earlier this year: 

As a reminder, ArcelorMittal just reported a massive loss attributable to the same dynamic. As we noted on Friday, the obvious implication of China's excess capacity problem is that the country will simply export its deflation...

Given that, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the world’s biggest steelmaker suspended its dividend and cut its outlook.

Here's more from Bloomberg

The world’s biggest steelmaker on Friday cut its full-year profit target and suspended its dividend, putting the blame on the flood of cheap steel from China’s loss-making mills. The market is being overwhelmed with material coming from the nation’s state-owned and state-supported producers, a collection of industry associations said Thursday.

 

“It is obvious that we are operating in a very challenging market,” Chief Financial Officer Aditya Mittal said on a call with reporters. “This is essentially the result of very low export prices out of China that are impacting prices worldwide.”

 

The steel industry has been roiled by the slowest economic growth in two decades in China, the biggest consumer.

 

The flood of cheap exports from the nation has drawn complaints from Europe and the U.S. that the shipments are unfair. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates Chinese steel shipments overseas will exceed 100 million metric tons this year, more than the combined output of Europe’s top four producing countries.

 

While demand for steel in the company’s largest markets of the U.S. and Europe is recovering, producers’ profits are being hit by slumping prices because China has been pushing excess supply onto the world market as its economy slows.

So again, we're seeing disinflation (the exact opposite of what DM central bankers intended when they decided to expand their balance sheets into the trillions) as global growth and trade enters a new era, characterized by a systemic slump in demand. Here's the damage in terms of the Arcelor's equity:

 

And here's more from The New York Times on the impact of Chinese "dumping: 

“The Chinese are dumping in our core markets,” Mr. Mittal said. “The question is how long the Chinese will continue to export below their cost.”

 

The company’s loss for the period compared with a $22 million profit for last year’s third quarter.

 

ArcelorMittal, which is based in Luxembourg, also sharply cut its projection for 2015 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — the main measure of a steel company’s finances. The new estimate is $5.2 billion to $5.4 billion, down from the previous projection of $6 billion to $7 billion.

 

On a call with reporters, Aditya Mittal, Mr. Mittal’s son and the company’s chief financial officer, said that a flood of low-price Chinese exports was the biggest challenge for ArcelorMittal in the European and North American markets.

 

The company estimates that Chinese steel exports this year will reach 110 million metric tons, compared with 94 million tons last year and 63 million tons in 2013. ArcelorMittal produced 93 million metric tons of steel in 2014.

Of course when the standing government policy is to roll over bad debt and avoid SOE defaults at all costs, uneconomic producers can and will continue to produce. This means the deflationary impulse ArcelorMittal cites isn't likely to dissipate anytime soon.

So, it would appear that Paul is the latest "casualty" of the worldwide commodity downturn, the global deflationary supply glut, and the habitual exportation of deflation. It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this rather morbid wake up call has on Downing Street's "courting" of Xi.