Smedjebackens Valsverk

Historic rolling mill developed into a modern and efficient industry

The rolling technique saw a rapid development during the 1850s. One of the first modern rolling mills in Sweden was Smedjebackens Valsverk in south-western Dalarna. The rolling mill was founded in 1856, with a couple of ironworks as partners. Ten years later, this was the country’s largest manufacturer of rolled bar iron. The first universal mill in Sweden was installed here in 1877 – in other words a mill that had a combination of horisontal and vertically stored rollers.

Ratos acquired Smedjebacken Valsverk at the beginning of 1955. The rolling bar mill had been one of the most important suppliers to Söderberg & Haak since 1898.

There was a clear connection between Smedjebackens Valsverk and Söderberg & Haak, namely that both companies had been involved with steel. However, the reason that Ratos acquired Smedjebacken was mainly for tax reasons. The ability to depreciate inventories declined dramatically following  the 1955 law on the valuation of goods. Following Ratos’s acquisition of Smedjebacken, with its significant fixed assets, the trading businesses profits could be converted to group contributions, which was advantageous from a tax standpoint.

Major investments were subsequently made in Smedjebacken. The steel mill was expanded in 1956, a new small-section rolling mill was added in 1960, a new cogging mill in 1964 and a new medium rolling mill in 1973.

The rolling mill was a major supplier to Söderberg & Haak, especially for reinforcing steel. Smedjebackens Valsverk did not have any special relationship with Söderberg & Haak, however, but also sold to other wholesalers.

Ragnar Söderberg and his three sons all sat, during various periods, on the board of Smedjebackens Valsverk. Axel Gjöres was hired as chairman from 1955-70, which was both an unconventional and lucky choice. Gjöres was the son of a millworker from Smedjebacken, who built his career within the consumers cooperative movement and subsequently became a member of Parliament (Social Democrat), the national economy minister, trade minister and finally the director-general of the National Board of Trade.

Smedjebackens Valsverk underwent an extensive modernisation, where its entire production line was gradually updated from the mid-1960s through 1980, when a new continuous casting facility went into operation. With that, Smedjebacken became a very modern, cost-efficient, scrap-based steel and rolling mill for the production of long products of special and  commercial steel qualities, including reinforcing steel and bar steel.

Ratos sold its shares in Smedjebacken in 1991. The company has been part of Ovako since 2005.