President Francois Hollande on Tuesday pressed Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, the head of steelmaker ArcelorMittal, to avert the closure of two blast furnaces in north-eastern France, raising the possibility of a state takeover while waiting for a buyer.
Hollande met Mittal at his office a
day after a cabinet member said the Indian steel magnate was no longer welcome in France due to years of broken promises, forcing other officials to clarify that no mass nationalisation was under way.
The meeting aimed at mending ties with ArcelorMittal, which employs some 20,000 people in France, and finding solutions to avoid shutting down furnaces - including a temporary nationalisation of the surrounding steelworks - as a deadline for the conclusion of talks loomed in three days.
Mittal has so far resisted calls to sell the entire Florange steelworks to pave the way for a State takeover, and has warned that he will start to close the idled furnaces if no private buyer expresses interest in them by December 1.
Hollande "reiterated his desire to ensure the sustainability of jobs on the site", his office said in a statement, adding that he wanted talks to continue until the deadline.
Spokespeople for ArcelorMittal were not immediately available for comment.
Sources at Mittal have said that no commitment to keep the sites running was ever made and that plans to shut down the furnaces predate the merger between Mittal and Arcelor.