If you were snoozing, you might have missed the announcement of yet another Russian acquisition of North American steelmaking assets. On Friday, the news popped that Russian steelmaker OAO Severstal (OTC BB: SVJTF.PK) will pay about $810 million to ArcelorMittal (NYSE: MT) for the Sparrows Point steel mill in Baltimore.

This deal follows an unsuccessful effort led by Chicago-based Esmark (Nasdaq: ESMK) to buy the plant for $1.35 billion. That transaction fell apart in December, possibly because of the buying group's inability to raise the necessary funds.

A U.S. court ordered the sale of Sparrows Point in exchange for approval of the $38 billion combination of India's Mittal Steel and Arcelor SA of Luxembourg. Severstal apparently had attempted earlier to acquire Arcelor.

Sparrows Point is the only integrated flat-rolled-steel plant with water access on the East Coast. It has the capacity to crank out 3.9 million tons a year, although last year's output was only about two-thirds of that amount.  

Through the acquisition, Severstal stands to become the fourth-largest producer of steel in the U.S., behind U.S. Steel (NYSE: X), Nucor (NYSE: NUE), and ArcelorMittal. Worldwide, the company ginned out about 17.5 million tons of steel last year.

Even though steel demand has fallen domestically, our soft economy is making U.S. assets attractive to overseas producers for their potential future value. Just last week, for instance, I told my Foolish friends that a pair of Russian companies, Evraz Group SA and OAO TMK, ponied up for the U.S. tubular steel assets of Sweden's SSAB Svenskt Stal AB.

I suggested last week that you might want to consider slowly building a position in U.S. Steel. Now, economic doldrums notwithstanding, I'll also say that Fools should remain attentive to the machinations of the U.S. steel industry as a whole.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith can't steal enough time away from writing about the steel companies to stash them in his portfolio. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool's disclosure policy is furnace-treated.