Japanese steel maker Nisshin Steel Co. Ltd has decided to freeze talks with industry leader Nippon Steel Corp. on a potential consolidation of their stainless steel operations. Nisshin said that the two steel makers had been considering such an integration since July 1999, but the situation had changed following a severe downturn in its earnings resulting from the faltering steel market. Given the current business environment, the company has said it has decided that its priority must be on restoring its earnings base. Nisshin said the decision would not sour business relations with Nippon Steel, adding that it would continue to consider potential business alliances in other areas. No comments were immediately available from Nippon Steel.