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(LEAD) POSCO says Buffett interested in buying more shares

All Headlines 15:47 January 19, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS more details 7-10 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- POSCO, South Korea's leading steelmaker, said Tuesday that U.S. investor Warren Buffett has expressed an interest in buying more shares of the company

Buffett's investment vehicle currently owns 4.5 percent of POSCO as of February 2009, also the world's No. 4 steelmaker. The famed investor met on Monday with Chung Joon-Yang, the company's CEO, at the Berkshire Hathaway headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, according to the steelmaker.

In their meeting, Buffett said he should have purchased more POSCO shares last year when the global financial crisis hurt equity asset values, POSCO said.

Shares of the steelmaker closed at 604,000 won (US$536) on the Seoul bourse, up 1 percent.

The company is set to benefit from rising demand from automakers and shipbuilders. It set its annual production target at 34.4 million tons for this year, up 16.6 percent from last year, and increased its annual sales production by 9.3 percent to 29.5 trillion won.

POSCO also said it plans to spend 9.3 trillion won this year on facilities, up 93 percent from last year.

Beside its ongoing project to build a $12 billion steel plant in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, the company is also seeking to build a $7 billion plant in Karnataka to the south. POSCO has already agreed to invest $5 billion in Vietnam, and is involved in a $6 billion Indonesian venture.

In the past few years, POSCO has acquired Asia Stainless Corp. in Vietnam and Taihan ST Corp. in South Korea. POSCO is also in talks to buy Thailand's Thainox Stainless Plc.

"Buffett offered support for our plans to acquire companies to boost (POSCO's) global presence," said a company official.

The investor also expressed hopes to visit South Korea again in autumn this year, according to POSCO. Buffett last made a trip to the country in 2007.

Chung left Seoul for Omaha on Sunday, and will meet with analysts and investors in New York later Tuesday.

sam@yna.co.kr
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