Voestalpine AG is an international steel company based in Linz, Austria. The company is active in steel, automotive, railway systems, profilform and tool steel industries.
47 per cent of its workforce is based in Austria. The Linz hot strip mill is a "fully integrated steel works" operated by voestalpine Stahl GmbH, a part of the steel division of voestalpine AG. In addition to Linz the most important plants are in Leoben in Styria and in Krems in Lower Austria. It had a large plant at Liezen in Styria which closed in the 1990s.
The name of the company amalgamates its two principal components, the VÖEST (Vereinigte Österreichische Eisen und Stahlwerke) in Upper Austria, established through nationalization in July 1946,<ref name=T293>Tweraser, p. 293.</ref> and the ÖAMG (Österreichische-Alpine Montangesellschaft) in Styria, established in 1881.
- Voestalpine Stahl
- Voestalpine Railway Systems, including voestalpine Schienen, which is the top rail manufacturer in Europe
- Voestalpine Profilform, the company's third largest division and the largest maker of cold rolled-form steel sections
- Voestalpine Division Automotive, started in 2001 and originally called Motion Division, supplies parts to high-end automobile manufacturers
The Alpine Montangesellschaft (English: Alpine Mining Society) was founded in Vienna on July 19, 1881, as a vehicle of consolidating Austrian iron and steel assets. Some of these assets were later depleted, abandoned or sold. The core assets that remained concentrated in Styria: the iron ore pits in Erzberg and a steel mill in Donawitz. The company also owned smaller businesses and railroads in the Mur River valley and in Lower Austria (Krems and Schwechat). Alpine, chaired by Karl Wittgenstein, peaked in 1912, when it owned four coal mines, two iron ore mines and six metallurgical plants.
In 1922 56% of Alpine Montangesellshaft, then owned by Fiat (see Camillo Castiglioni), was purchased by Hugo Stinnes for the German giant Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG (VS).<ref name=O108>Overy, p. 108.</ref> After the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, the Nazi leadership and the German steel barons clashed in a conflict over the rate of economic growth: the Nazis demanded rapid buildup of industrial capacity while the big business feared overproduction and preferred to keep status quo.<ref name=O100>Overy, p. 100.</ref> In the first half of 1937 the Nazi leadership openly broke with the steel barons and settled for state control over iron and steel production.<ref name=O98>Overy, p. 98.</ref> In the same year Hermann Göring expressed his desire to control Austrian iron reserves at Erzberg.<ref name=O148>Overy, p. 148.</ref> After the Anschluss state-owned Reichswerke Hermann Göring purchased a 13% share in Alpine, and for the next six months wrestled with the VS over control of the company. In March 1939 the VS stepped aside and the Reichswerke acquired 70% share of Alpine<ref name=O149>Overy, p. 149.</ref> in exchange for a 10% share in the new plant in Linz.<ref name=O109>Overy, p. 109.</ref> In June 1939 its name was changed to Alpine Montan AG Hermann Göring.<ref name=O149/> The Reichswerke continued acquisitions and outright confiscations, and soon controlled around half of Austrian heavy industries.<ref name=O155>Overy, p. 155.</ref> In 1944, the peak year for Alpine, its sales reached 371 million RM, 16% of the whole mining and steel sales of the Reichswerke.
Reichswerke in Linz
The Reichswerke announced its plans for a new steel mill in Linz before the takeover of Alpine, as an incentive for VS to extract more ore at Erzberg.<ref name=O108/> Linz had a special place in Nazi system, and the steel project received full financial commitment of the state.<ref name=O148>Overy, p. 148.</ref> Guido Schmidt was appointed chief of the Reichswerke in Linz for his services to the Nazis during the Anschluss.<ref name=O160>Overy, p. 160.</ref> The synergy of steel works in Linz and ore reserves at Erzberg, vertically integrated into the Reichswerke, made it virtually independent of the steel elite of the Ruhr.<ref name=O149>Overy, p. 149.</ref> The works in Linz were viewed as a hub of a future steel conglomerate spanning over the whole Central Europe.
The integration was completed with the takeover of Danube shipping companies and local construction businesses.<ref name=O149/> The steel mill was completed during the war and was generously subsidized by the state.<ref name=O173>Overy, p. 173.</ref> In 1943-1944, when the Ruhr was bombed to the ground, Hitler demanded a sharp increase in steel production in Austria. Göring launched a huge and unmanageable expansion campaign and spared no expense,<ref name=O171>Overy, p. 171.</ref> all in vain: the Allied bombers levelled most of Linz, too.<ref name=S238>Schroeder, p. 238.</ref>
In 1945 Allied-occupied Austria was partitioned into four occupation zones; the heavy industries of the former Reichswerke concentrated in the American (Linz) and British (Erzberg) zones. The future of Linz was debated in 1945–1946. Local government of Styria and the British objected to reconstruction of Linz works, calling it the white elephant, too far from coal and ore reserves, and too large to be economical.<ref name=T298>Tweraser, p. 298.</ref> The American authorities at first concurred and suggested to reduce the Linz works to eight coke ovens under Alpine-Mountain management, dismantle the furnaces and use the parts for the needed repairs in Donawitz (Styria).<ref name=T299>Tweraser, p. 299.</ref> The Soviets voted to dismantle Linz altogether.<ref name=T299/>
The Austrian national government carefully persuaded the Americans to save Linz.<ref name=T300>Tweraser, p. 300.</ref> In the summer of 1946, when allied negotiations on Linz reached a stalemate, the Americans decided to restore Linz unilaterally, regardless of British or Soviet opinion.<ref name=T301>Tweraser, p. 301.</ref> Tactics of reconstruction became a subject of a debate between the Department of State, which advocated nationalization, and the U. S. Army, represented by Mark W. Clark, who stood for privatization.<ref name=T294>Tweraser, p. 294.</ref> The diplomats prevailed, and the Austrian government was allowed to nationalize the former German assets at will. The mills of Linz were nationalized in July 1946 as the VÖEST (Vereinigte Österreichische Eisen und Stahlwerke, United Austrian Iron and Steelworks).<ref name=T293>Tweraser, p. 293.</ref>
VÖEST decided to dispose with three of its six blast furnaces. One was dismantled and sold to Sweden; the proceeds were used to purchase coal in Poland. The supply of coal allowed VÖEST to restart its pig iron smelting in June 1947; the first pig iron was shipped to Sweden.<ref name=T301/> Two other furnaces were earmarked for sale to Czechoslovakia; Mark Clark objected to this deal since 1946<ref name=K108>Komlosy, p. 108.</ref> and it finally fell apart after the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948.<ref name=T301/>
VÖEST assets became the principal Austrian recipient of the Marshall Plan aid but access to American cash came only after a protracted political battle within Austrian establishment. Geoffrey Keyes had to recruit steel expert William E. Brewster to sort through the Austrian proposals.<ref name=T310>Tweraser, p. 310.</ref> Brewster supported the Austrian four-year plan but its key opponent Franz Nemchak called it "a colossal stupidity" and demanded a halt on VÖEST program.<ref name=T310/> The controversy spilled into the U. S. Senate, causing delays in Marshall Plan financing for VÖEST.<ref name=T312>Tweraser, p. 312.</ref> VÖEST received its new slabbing mill but the new hot strip mill was delayed by the opposition of the Pentagon, which feared that VÖEST product would be sold to the Soviet bloc.<ref name=T312/> The Pentagon removed their objections in January 1952, conforming to the consensus of other U. S. agencies. The hot and cold strip mills were, at last, put into operation in 1953.<ref name=T313>Tweraser, p. 313.</ref> By the end of 1953 the first phase of reconstruction was complete.<ref name=T313/>
In the summer of 1948 VÖEST, ÖAMG and Swiss Roll AG agreed to co-develop the basic oxygen steelmaking process proposed by Robert Durrer (itself a development of Henry Bessemer's 1858 patent).<ref name=S978>Smil, pp. 97-98.</ref> By June 1949 VÖEST developed an adaptation of Durrer's process, the LD (Linz-Donawitz) process,<ref name=T313>Tweraser, p. 313.</ref><ref name=S98>Smil, p. 98.</ref> (German: LD Verfahren; U.S. names: Oxygen Converter Process, Basic Oxygen Furnace Process, BOP, OSM).<ref name=B50>Brock and Elzinga, p. 50.</ref> In December 1949 the VÖEST and the ÖAMG committed to building their first 30-ton oxygen converters.<ref name=S98/> They were put into operation in November 1952 and May 1953<ref name=S98/> and temporarily created a surge in steel-related research.<ref name=B39>Brock and Elzinga, p. 39.</ref> 34 thousand businesspeople and engineer visited the VÖEST converter by 1963.<ref name=B39/> The LD process reduced processing time and capital costs per ton of steel, contributing to the competitive advantage of Austrian steel.<ref name=T313/> However, errors made by the VÖEST and the ÖAMG management in licensing their technology made control over its adoption elsewhere impossible and by the end of the 1950s the Austrians lost their competitive edge.<ref name=T313/>
VÖEST was merged with Österreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft and other companies in the 1970s, and the resulting company took the name Vöest-Alpine AG.
Restructuring of Austria's nationalised industries by 1988 produced a company called Voest-Alpine Stahl AG.
In 1990, Österreichische Industrieholding AG (Austrian Industry Holding AG) became Austrian Industries AG as it took the first steps toward privatisation.<ref name=voest1986>Template:Cite web</ref> In 1993, three companies formed from Austrian Industries AG--Voest-Alpine Technologie AG, and Voest-Alpine Stahl AG, and Böhler-Uddeholm.<ref name=voest1993>Template:Cite web</ref> Privatisation began in 1995,<ref name=voest1995>Template:Cite web</ref> and the government sold its last shares of the company in 2003. Voest-Alpine Stahl owned 21.25 of Voest-Alpine Technologie, which was the parent company of the former Voest-Alpine plant-building unit Voest-Alpine Industrieanlagenbau, split from the larger company in 1956.<ref name=Steel/>
In 1996, Voest-Alpine bought Polynorm, a Bunschoten, Netherlands manufacturer of auto parts, for $118 million. The company's goal was a 15 percent share of European auto-body parts.
In 1998, Voest-Alpine Stahl and Vossloh AG joined to purchase 90 percent of VAE Group.<ref name=Vossloh>Template:Cite web</ref> The Austrian manufacturer of railroad switches, turnout systems and related products was founded in 1851. as Hugo-Hütte by Hugo Henckel von Donnersmarck and owned by Österreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft from 1889 until that company's 1973 merger with Voest-Alpine AG, and had been independent since 1990.<ref name=Vossloh/><ref name="sahis"/> In 2002 the 45% Vossloh share in VAE was bought by Voest-Alpine for €140 million, and in 2003 VAE Group GmbH became a subsidiary of voestalpine Bahnsysteme division.<ref name="sahis">Template:Cite web</ref>
In 2001, the name of Voest-Alpine Stahl Group changed to voestalpine AG<ref name=voest1995/> in order to fit the standard naming pattern of Austrian public corporations.Template:Citation needed
In 2006, voestalpine decided to sell its steel trading group. Voestalpine Stahlhandel is now Cognor Stahlhandel, still based in Linz and part of the Cognor Group, a division of Zlomrex S.A. Capital Group.
In April 2007, voestalpine made a bid for 20.95 percent of the Austrian tool steel producer Böhler-Uddeholm, which was created in 1991 from the merger of Böhler Group and Swedish Uddeholm Group, the latter acquired by Voest-Alpine Stahl AG in 1990.<ref name=voest1986/> The combined company was one of three created from Austrian Industries AG in 1993.<ref name=voest1993/> By June, voestalpine held 55 percent of voting stock after "the largest acquisition in Austria’s industrial history", worth 2 billion Euros. In March 2008, voestalpine said it owned 90.24 of Böhler-Uddehom and intended to buy the rest.
Voest-Alpine Eisenbahnsysteme and Nortrak Railway Supply Ltd. of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada formed a joint venture in 1990 called VAE Nortrak North America, Inc., which later added operations in the United States. The Birmingham, Alabama plant opened in 1992, followed by the Cheyenne, Wyoming plant in 1997,<ref name=Nortrak>Template:Cite web</ref> now the company's headquarters. As a result of two 2004 acquisitions, Nortrak has other U.S. facilities in Pueblo, Colorado; Newton, Kansas and Chicago Heights, Illinois; and Seattle, Washington.<ref name=Nortrak/>
Roll Forming Corp., incorporated in 1947 and headquartered in Shelbyville, Kentucky, is the roll forming division of voestalpine AG. The company has supplied parts for the aerospace industry since 1949 and for Boeing airplanes since 1969. It also supplies NASA and McDonnell Douglas. Products also include model train tracks and gymnasium bleachers. At first the company made aluminum parts for airplane structures, but in the late 1980s, Roll Forming added preparing parts for assembly. The company still uses this process for Spirit AeroSystems, which puts together stringers for many of Boeing's larger planes.<ref name=Poulton/> Other locations for Roll Forming are Jeffersonville, Indiana and Farrell, Pennsylvania. Roll Forming agreed to the purchase by Voest-Alpine Krems in 2000, giving the Voest-Alpine Stahl AG subsidiary its first manufacturing facilities in the United States.<ref name=Poulton>Template:Cite news</ref>
In 1978, Voest-Alpine and other European companies started Bayou Steel Corporation, incorporated in Louisiana in 1979. The first mill opened in La Place, Louisiana in 1981, but the company did not do well because of high energy prices and cheaper foreign steel. In 1986, Voest-Alpine sold its interest to R.S.R. Corporation.
In addition, voestalpine AG owned a portion of Voest-Alpine Industrieanlagenbau (VAI),<ref name=Steel>Template:Cite news</ref> whose Voest-Alpine Industries subsidiary had its American headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.<ref name=Kvaerner>Template:Cite news</ref> Siemens purchased VAI parent VA Tech in 2005.
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- Komlosy, Andrea (2000). The Marshall Plan and the Making of the Iron Curtain in Austria. in: Bischof, Gunther et al. (2000). The Marshall Plan in Austria. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-7658-0679-7. pp. 98–137.
- Overy, R. J. (1995). War and economy in the Third Reich. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-820599-6.
- Schroeder, Hans-Jurgen (2000). Marshall Plan Propaganda in Austria. in: Bischof, Gunther et al. (2000). The Marshall Plan in Austria. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-7658-0679-7. pp. 212–247.
- Smil, Vaclav (2006). Transforming the twentieth century: technical innovations and their consequences, Volume 2. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-516875-5.
- Tweraser, Kurt (2000). The Marshall Plan and the Reconstruction of the Austrian Steel Industry 1945-1953. in: Bischof, Gunther et al. (2000). The Marshall Plan in Austria. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-7658-0679-7. pp. 290–322.