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Belgium closer to Arcelor decision, plan unveiled

Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt hopes to have a decision by the end of March and give a reaction at the beginning of April.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 12:35 IST

Belgium said on Tuesday that it will respond to Mittal Steel's 19.5 billion-euro takeover bid for Arcelor by early April after it received Mittal's full industrial plan for the merger.

"We will analyse the plan with our investment bankers and have further meetings with the advisors and we hope to have a decision by the end of March and give a reaction at the beginning of April," Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told reporters.

He was speaking after meeting Mittal and Belgian political leaders, including the head of the southern Walloon region, which owns 2.3 per cent of Arcelor.

Tuesday's presentation was the first time that Mittal, the world's largest steelmaker, disclosed its plan in detail to any of the European governments involved in the deal.

Mittal Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal has been touring the continent to persuade politicians and the European Commission, the EU executive, not to oppose the bid, which has fuelled concerns about job losses.

"They have seen this is a very concrete industrial plan with compelling industrial logic for the merger of Mittal and Arcelor," he said after Tuesday's meeting.

France, Luxembourg and Spain have voiced concerns over the possible takeover.

Shares in Arcelor and Mittal fell on Tuesday after the chief executive of Arcelor said a majority of shareholders it had spoken to backed the group's defence.

"I think it is important that the different governments understand and listen to industrial logic," Mittal said. "We are very confident that when they study this plan, they will be very pleased and happy with the nature of this transaction."

In a statement issued after the meeting, Mittal Steel said it planned to meet the other governments to explain its industrial project for Arcelor.

Mittal met EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy earlier on Tuesday. The Commission declined to comment on the details of the meeting.

"We had a meeting with Mr McCreevy and we exchanged our views on this protectionism and the various governments' views and we told him that our merger will create a European global champion and we are convinced of this," Lakshmi Mittal said.

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 11:21 IST