Cleveland Makes It, the World Takes It

I’ve traveled the New Jersey Turnpike more times than I care to remember, and the funniest landmark I’ve seen was a billboard at the entrance to an urban industrial landscape: Trenton Makes It; The World Takes It.

The way the global demand for steel has heated up, Cleveland might be able to claim the same mantra. I refer, of course, to the iron ore and coking coal sensation Cleveland-Cliffs (NYSE: CLF  ) . Shares of Cleveland-Cliffs have nearly doubled since January, and yet still sport a cozy forward P/E of just over 10.

This type of growth is uncommon for the 160-year-old company, so what’s behind its newfound success? Exhibiting the same knack for market timing that made Agnico-Eagle (NYSE: AEM  ) a leader in the gold space, Cleveland-Cliffs executed a program to diversify its product base and geographical reach at a most opportune time.

Under the direction of CEO Joseph Carraba, who spent 22 years with Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP  ) , Cleveland-Cliffs has transformed itself from a North American iron ore producer into a global force for iron ore and coking coal. The company crushes the competition for domestic market share in iron ore, taking 45% of the pie. Vertically integrated steel producers U.S. Steel (NYSE: X  ) and ArcelorMittal (NYSE: MT  ) scrap over most of the rest.

However, because of its concentration around the Great Lakes, North American iron ore is not well-suited to feed global demand. With that in mind, Cleveland has branched out into Australia and Brazil, adding significant size and geographic diversification in the process.

Supply shortfalls for coking coal are even more acute than they are for iron ore at present. Cleveland-Cliffs made two key acquisitions in the U.S. last summer, and began production at the Sonoma Mine in Australia last quarter. Cleveland now has 9% of the U.S. metallurgical coal market share, compared with 21% for big dog Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR  ) and 18% for Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE  ) .

Unlike its steelmaking customers, Cleveland-Cliffs is plain loving it as prices balloon for iron ore and coking coal. With supply shortfalls expected to last several years, Cleveland-Cliffs could be in the right place at the right time.

Further core Foolishness:

Fool contributor Christopher Barker captains yachts and writes about stocks. He can also be found acting foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Agnico-Eagle Mines and Massey Energy. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On June 19, 2008, at 6:44 AM, slick322 wrote:

    I'm from New Jersey and FYI the rest of that phrase, "What Trenton Makes The World Takes" (sic) is "What The World Refuses, Trenton Uses!"

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