All steel companies must now be considered possible takeover targets after Mittal Steel's ( MT) successful bid for rival Arcelor, says Dan DiMicco, CEO of Nucor ( NUE). And that includes Nucor, the largest U.S. steel maker. DiMicco also had some other interesting things to say when TheStreet.com caught up with him earlier this week: TheStreet.com: Lakshmi Mittal, head of Mittal Steel,
has emphasized the importance of industry consolidation in improving the economics of the steel market. So is Nucor in acquisition mode, or is it a likely target for takeover? Are you dining, or are you an appetizer for someone bigger? DiMicco: Here's the straight skinny. Anybody in this industry who thinks they aren't a potential target is kidding themselves. When Mittal went after Arcelor it was really an industry life-changing event that tells you anybody is fair game. Nucor will continue to be an acquirer both domestically and globally, probably more domestically. How will you finance any expansions or acquisitions? We've always had a very strong balance sheet. And we've always had low debt-to-capital ratios below 25%, except when we go out to build a new plant, in which case it could be up to 45%. We have $2 billion in cash, which is a very large amount of cash, and it's accumulating every month due to the excellent market conditions. Industry observers say that steel prices look set to soften slightly in the third quarter. Are you expecting that to happen? We do not necessarily agree with those that are saying the third quarter will be soft. There are a lot of steel companies that have their fourth quarters booked already. You said in a recent email toTheStreet.com that you thought the industry was better placed than it had ever been in your 32-year steel industry career. Are you saying that the industry will stop being cyclical? Anybody that tells you it's a brave new world, that it is no longer cyclical, has been smoking too much something. We are definitely going to stay in a cyclical business, but what is fundamentally different is the industry consolidation and more importantly the reduced level of government involvement in the steel business. These companies are now shareholder-driven and have to produce a profit so they won't just continue producing steel when it's unprofitable to do so. Lakshmi Mittal, CEO of Mittal Steel, doesn't think steel futures would be useful to the industry. Do you agree? We will not use them. The industry has come out against them on a global basis. For us it's just an attempt by bankers to make money. We have real concerns over the unethical trading in other metals futures markets. I do not believe it will fly for steel . Over the past year Nucor stock has done better than that of U.S. steel. Why do you think that is? Nucor has always maintained better investments than virtually any other steel company. Nucor has one of the most efficient business models of any company in the world. We have a very successful business model that has doubled the size of the company since 2000.