An analysis of the privatised steel monopoly ArcelorMittal’s operations in South Africa is used to raise questions about the power of multinational corporations in relation to the state. The article focuses on the steel manufacturer’s externalisation of environmental, social and economic costs onto communities and upstream consumers of steel. The analysis is grounded in two places where steel production networks ‘touch down’: Vanderbijlpark in the south of Gauteng, where ArelorMittal manufactures steel, and Ezakheni in KwaZulu-Natal, where a household appliance manufacturer uses steel as a major input. The article points to the limitations of competition policy (directed at the prevention of ‘import-party pricing’) in the absence of an effective industrial policy. The classification of the post-apartheid South African state as a ‘developmental state’ is questioned in the context of this minimalist approach to economic and social transformation.