VÖEST up to the Austrian State Treaty
On May 5, 1945, US troops reached Linz. The Linz plants were confiscated as German assets and by means of two orders of the US military government on July 18 and October 1, 1945, respectively, they were renamed “Vereinigte Österreichische Eisen- und Stahlwerke AG“ (United Austrian Iron and Steelworks AG) or VÖEST. In addition, they were separated from Alpine Montan AG. Public administrators were entrusted with the management of the plants.
Immediately after the end of the war, work was begun on gradually repairing the damage and starting up some of the plants again on a provisional basis, even though it was not at all clear what was going to happen with the plants in Linz. There were vehement differences of opinion on the question of whether the plants should continue in existence and tearing them down was one of the alternatives discussed. The continuation of the company was agreed upon only after protracted negotiations and interventions.
The decision to continue operating the plants in Linz also led to a significant alteration of the regional economic structure. But the actual reconstruction and expansion of the plants to a full extent only began after the commanding American officer, General Mark W. Clark, turned VÖEST over to the Republic of Austria in trust on July 16, 1946. On July 26, 1946, VÖEST was nationalized. The basis for this was the First Nationalization Act.
The Iron and Steel Plan of 1948 prepared by the Ministry for Asset Protection and Economic Planning and the Ministry for Trade and Reconstruction was designed to coordinate the growth of the iron and steel industry and served as the basis for the allocation of ERP (Marshall Plan) funds. The production of commercial sheet steel was concentrated in Linz.
The same year saw the beginning of an expansion program with foreign capital made available through the Marshall Plan of the USA, which was set up to support the rebuilding of Western Europe. At that time the USA considered a reprivatization of VÖEST with the financial participation of the Allies. On April 8, 1949, the three Western Powers declared that they wanted to forego their claims to “German assets” after the conclusion of a state treaty with Austria.
The development of the company proceeded rapidly. In 1951, for example, the slab mill went into operation. At the beginning of January 1953 production began at the first LD steelmaking plant in the world and at the hot strip mill with a rolling line that had five rolling stands, which represented one of the most important big investments of the postwar period. In October 1953 the cold rolling mill followed. In this and the following year the investments of the first development stage were essentially completed.
In the early years of VÖEST nothing had a greater influence on the image and history of the company than the development of the LD (Linz-Donawitz) process (basic oxygen steelmaking process). This innovation laid the foundation for an internationally competitive Austrian iron and steel industry. After a long period of preliminary work in Austria and other countries, scientists in Linz made the breakthrough. A successful series of tests led to the decision in December 1949 to construct the world’s first LD steelmaking plant in Linz.
In 1954 the Liezen steelworks was added to VÖEST through an operational lease. When the State Treaty was concluded in 1955, VÖEST took over management of the Krems steelworks, which had previously been under Soviet administration and not subject to Austrian disposition.