Nucor expects La. plant production within weeks

Steel company Nucor Corp. said Tuesday it expects to begin production within the next few weeks at its direct-reduced iron plant in Louisiana.

The $750 million Convent plant is in the final stages of testing as a unit, the Charlotte, N.C., company said.

Nucor also reported that it expects earnings to range between 35 cents and 40 cents per share in the quarter that ends Sept. 28. That compares to earnings of 35 cents per share in last year’s third quarter.

Analysts expect, on average, earnings of 38 cents per share, according to FactSet.

The 2.5 million-ton capacity plant in Convent will make high-purity pellets from iron ore. Nucor will mix the pellets with scrap metal to make steel. The reduced iron plant is the first of several phases in a planned $3.4 billion steel complex that would employ 1,250 people and produce millions of tons of steel each year.

Nucor’s products include carbon and alloy steel, joists and joist girders and fabricated concrete reinforcing steel. It said its steel mills performance has improved compared to this year’s second quarter, with a stronger performance in sheet and structural steel.

The company also said non-residential construction markets continue to lack sustained momentum so far this year, but they are slowly improving from historically low levels.

Nucor said in July that lower steel prices hurt its performance in the second quarter, contributing to a 24 percent drop in earnings.