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We'll own Arcelor by June: Mittal

He said the protectionist backlash from France "was a surprise for me", writes Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 18:20 IST

Lakshmi Mittal of Mittal Steel will own rival Arcelor by June, expecting to beat off opposition to his €18.6 billion (£12.7bn) bid to create a European steel superpower by then.

Mittal said the protectionist backlash over his deal from France "was a surprise for me". Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he said, "Arcelor was itself created out of a merger. I'm surprised there was such a move against our proposal."

He assured that the proposed merger would protect jobs and create a "European global champion".

He said, "To create a strong European company, you don't need protectionism, you need an open economy and cross-border mergers and acquisitions. You have to create a European global champion to protect jobs - otherwise companies in Europe will be more susceptible to cheap products coming in from China and India.

"That is what Mittal Steel/Arcelor is all about. We have promised there will be no job cuts and to continue to invest money and strengthen research and development."

In an earlier interview for BBC Radio Five Live's Weekend Business, he said he was confident that "at the end of the day shareholders will make the right decision" and "we should be completing the merger before the end of June", and added, "Since it was announced, the transaction has created value of more than €7.5 billion for shareholders in both companies [through the rise in stock prices]."

The richest Briton has ruled out an all-cash bid, claiming that Arcelor shareholders would be happy to take just a quarter of the bid in cash. Mittal will provide Arcelor shareholders with access to the US automotive steel market and the fast growth economies of China, India and Asia. Arcelor brings the western Europe car market and the exciting South American steel industry.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 18:20 IST