U.S. Steel to concentrate on steel making

A century after U.S. Steel became the world’s first billion-dollar company, the firm is selling off some of its extraneous enterprises to focus on making steel.

U.S. Steel officials signed a letter of intent to sell for $500 million its coke plants in Clairton, Pa., and Gary, Ind., its Minnesota iron ore operations and its transportation subsidiary Transtar.

“It is a major shift in strategy because it has been vertically integrated since it was created in 1901,” John Tumazos, an analyst with Prudential Securities, told the Associated Press.

The company made the steel that holds up the Empire State Building in New York and the Sears Tower in Chicago.

J.P. Morgan directed the merger of Andrew Carnegie’s steel company and a dozen smaller firms, creating U.S. Steel. Morgan sought to control everything from the raw materials to the trains and barges used to take them to mills. The company had 213 steel mills and transportation firms, 41 iron mines, 112 barges and 57,000 acres of coal and coke properties.

The businesses to be sold employ about a quarter of U.S. Steel’s 21,000 U.S. employees.