Information clampdown at steel conference

October 28, 2008

CANCUN – Usually chummy executives were playing duck and cover at this year’s Latin American steel conference, as markets spiraled out of control and companies consider cuts in output to combat falling steel prices.  Had the conference been held at the beginning of the year when steel prices were reaching record highs, it would have been another story. Today, instead of back-slapping and champagne glasses there are a lot of furrowed brows and pointed avoidance of journalists.

This reporter experienced a flurry of calls from otherwise friendly and enthusiastic PR people cancelling interviews that were arranged before the conference. Among the litany of reasons: “blackout period before earnings,” “times of uncertainty,” or simply “he didn’t show up.” Many of the top CEOs on the agenda decided to stay at home and work out their strategy in the face of falling world demand for steel amid a global recession.

At the opening cocktail reception, I overhead two company executives discussing the sighting of “one of those” from the AP – as if reporters were circling vultures, trying to pick the bones of the executives.

And chasing after CEOs as they slip behind closed doors, it was hard not to feel that way.  When I was lucky enough to corner them, they joked about how they will only answer questions about the weather, or they just smiled and said nothing.

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