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Mittal resumes Europe tour to push Arcelor offer

Mittal will submit his offer for steelmaker Arcelor to Belgian and Spanish regulators this week.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 11:23 IST
Reuters
Reuters
None

Indian-born tycoon Lakshmi Mittal will submit his offer for steelmaker Arcelor to Belgian and Spanish regulators this week and resume his whistle-stop tour of European capitals to drum up support.

Mittal, who heads and controls the world's largest steel maker, Mittal Steel, will meet on Monday with the Belgian prime minister and the head of the regional French-speaking Walloon government to discuss his $24 billion proposed offer for the Luxembourg steel group.

"In the next few days, the offer will be officially submitted to the Belgian regulator and to the Spanish regulator," a French-based spokeswoman for Mittal told Reuters on Sunday.

Mittal has already submitted the details of his proposed offer to the Luxembourg regulator, his spokeswoman said. Last week, he met with senior representatives of the French, Spanish and Luxembourg governments.

Arcelor has rejected his company's approach as hostile and said the two companies' corporate cultures were not reconcilable.

Luxembourg, Arcelor's largest shareholder with a 5.6 per cent holding, and France have expressed opposition to the proposed deal, which would create a new industry leader with a global market share of about 10 per cent.

In spite of Mittal's assurances, they are concerned the merger could lead to redundancies. Arcelor employs more than 30,000 people in the two countries.

"The strategy of Mr Mittal is to explain that his company is ready to honour the social commitments of Arcelor. Therefore, he will meet a lot of people involved in the political and economic life of the countries involved," the Mittal spokeswoman said.

The bid was worth 18.6 billion euros ($22.5 billion) when launched on January 27 but has risen since in line with its shares.

FRANCE WANTS MORE INFORMATION

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said late on Sunday that he wanted more information about Mittal's offer and said the state held some responsibility in the matter.

"I want to know more," Villepin said on Europe 1 radio. "The state has a responsibility to check the validity of this transaction. I say let's be demanding, let's be mobilised."

Finance Minister Thierry Breton reiterated on Saturday that the French government was worried by Mittal's approach and method.

"The government expresses its strongest concern on the way this approach has been initiated," Breton told a luncheon in Paris on Saturday.

However, Breton stressed he was neither for nor against the proposed tie-up.

Arcelor plans to double production to 100 million tonnes of steel within five years and deals in China will be a key path to growth, its vice-president of the management board told The Observer in an interview published on Sunday.

Michel Wurth told the British newspaper he hoped, together with Arcelor Chief Executive Guy Dolle, that the company's growth strategy would encourage investors to reject Mittal's bid.

Wurth said Arcelor was in the closing stages of discussions with 10 million-tonne-a-year Laiwu Steel over a joint-venture to build a new plant in China.

On Friday, Arcelor ruled out trying to find a white knight to thwart Mittal's approach.

First Published: Feb 06, 2006 11:23 IST