Updated: 2013-02-06 (China Daily) - Largest supplier attributes success to innovation, high-end products
It's a fact few people might know, but the metal used to make the many millions of coins in circulation in China is made in Taiyuan in Shanxi province by a company now regarded as the world's largest stainless steel producer.
Taiyuan Iron and Steel Group Co Ltd, or TISCO, is the only supplier of stainless steel to make the coins - but its products come in many different shapes and sizes, and are, of course, used in countless items which come into people's everyday lives including iPhones, cars, trains and even bridges.
Taiyuan's annual stainless steel production has increased to 3 million tons, making it the world's largest supplier, but China's steel industry as a whole is facing tough times, caused by a weak global economy and overcapacity.
To face up to the challenge, TISCO has invested heavily in developing high-end products, while it focuses more on its burgeoning stainless steel business.
Its latest financial figures show that as most domestic steel companies suffer losses, it remains on the right track.
Its 2012 revenue is expected to hit 130 billion yuan ($20.86 billion), with profits of 380 million yuan.
This year's revenue targets have been set at 140 billion, which are expected to deliver 500 million yuan in profits.
Because of the high price of iron ore and falling downstream demand, China's steel industry fell into a major deficit last year, with a total loss of 3.4 billion yuan during the first 10 months of 2012.
The country's major steel companies - which account for 80 percent of total output - had combined profits of just 1.58 billion yuan for the whole year, a 98.22 percent year-on-year drop, according to figures released by the China Iron and Steel Association last week.
However, capacity still grew in 2012 and will reach more than 1 billion metric tons, according to the association.
Against this tough trading environment, it is the quality of TISCO's high-end products that have meant it has been able to keep its head above water, while many in the industry have floundered, according to its chairman, Li Xiaobo.
"We consider our technological innovation is the key to upgrading our products to be competitive in the market.
"People always say that China's steel market is severely oversupplied, but in fact we still have to rely on imports for top high-end steel products," he said.