France says investor ready with cash for steel plant

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02:53 AM November 29th, 2012

November 29th, 2012 02:53 AM

Riot policemen surround demonstrating workers from ArcelorMittal in front of the National Assembly in Paris, Wednesday Nov. 28, 2012. France asserted on Wednesday that an investor was ready and willing to put 400 million euros ($515 million) into a steel plant at the center of a dispute between the owner ArcelorMittal and the government. AP PHOTO/REMY DE LA MAUVINIERE

PARIS—France asserted on Wednesday that an investor was ready and willing to put 400 million euros ($515 million) into a steel plant at the center of a dispute between the owner ArcelorMittal and the government.

The Socialist administration has threatened to nationalize the Florange plant in northeastern France if Mittal goes ahead with plans to close permanently two blast furnaces on the site that have been inactive for over a year.

The company, which wants to continue to operate the rest of the site, has given the government until Saturday to find a new investor willing to take over the furnaces.

Arnaud Montebourg, the minister for industrial renewal, on Wednesday told parliament an unidentified investor who was already involved in the steel industry had offered to put nearly 400 million euros into the site.

Last week the government had said it had received two expressions of interest in acquiring the whole plant.

President Francois Hollande met Tuesday with the company’s owner, Lakshmi Mittal, and warned him that nationalization was being seriously considered by the government.

ArcelorMittal argues that the blast furnaces at Florange are uncompetitive in current market conditions, partly because they are too far from ports for transportation.

The company has warned that nationalization of the plant would cast doubt on the future of all its operations in France, where it employs 20,000 people.

Montebourg caused controversy earlier in the week when he said Mittal was not welcome in France, comments that were quickly disowned by his colleagues and from which he subsequently backtracked.

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