Tenaris’ Billionaire Owner Expects Oilfield Lift from Trump’s Trade Plans

Billionaire steel tycoon Paolo Rocca is expecting the Donald Trump presidency to be a competitive boon for his oilfield tube-making business Tenaris SA in the U.S.

He’s also hoping for the sake of another of his global steel companies, Ternium SA, that the president-elect who preaches “America first” will still show some love for Latin America.

Tenaris has budgeted more than $7.5 billion in U.S. investments over the past decade. That includes nearly $2 billion on a tube mill in Bay City, Texas, that will open next year. With Trump’s more intense focus on U.S. jobs, Rocca said Monday in an interview that he expects to gain ground on competitors who must still import their tubes for domestic drillers.

“We need still to see the decisions that the new administration will take, but I expect the support for the domestic oil industry,” Rocca said in Midland, where he opened a new service center in the middle of the nation’s busiest oil patch. “Tenaris today is a fully American company established in different states with a fully local supply chain in place. I imagine that this is a very important competitive advantage for Tenaris against almost all of our competitors.”

The Milan-born 64-year-old hails from a family where his grandfather was called the inventor of Italy’s steel industry. As shares in Tenaris and Ternium rallied this year along with commodity prices, Rocca’s net worth has grown 19% to $8.4 billion, making him Italy’s third-richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The Rocca family’s Argentina-based industrial conglomerate, Techint, is also engaged in engineering and construction and oil and gas exploration.

North America is the largest region of business for Luxembourg-based Tenaris, generating 40% of its sales last year. South America is its next largest region, with 30%.

“I hope that, even with the administration more focused on the domestic policy, there will be room for a constructive dialog with Latin America,” Rocca said. “The relation to the Americas has been important as a stimulus for the Latin American countries and also as a reference for the U.S.”

Ternium gets more than half its sales from Mexico, making it one of the most exposed to Trump’s policy toward Mexico.

Because the U.S. exported more steel to Mexico than it brought in from its southern neighbor, “there should be common interests, in particular on the part of the United States, in maintaining an open trade with Mexico,” he said.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed last week to curb output by 1.2 MMbpd, in an effort to help balance the global oil market. Other producing nations that aren’t cartel members also signaled plans to cut back by as much as 600,000 bopd, OPEC said. The U.S. shale industry—gutted by 2 1/2 years of bankruptcies, writedowns, credit downgrades and layoffs—is poised to benefit, and the Permian basin in west Texas is expected to lead the charge.

“We are exactly where we should be,” Rocca said of his company’s new Midland service center. “The Permian is the most dynamic play in the United States.”

Tenaris, which employed 21,741 at the end of last year, now has a global headcount of about 19,000, Rocca said. And while the company is back to hiring throughout the U.S., it’s hard to say how much bigger it wants to get by the end of next year, he said.

“It will depend if this recovery continues,” he said. “Also, government policy is important. The decision the new administration may take may have an influence on our policy and our decision in 2017.”

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