Quantcast
Latest Stories

French government attacked over threat to Mittal

By

Riot policemen surround demonstrating workers from Arcelor Mittal in front of the National Assembly in Paris on Nov. 28, 2012. The head of France’s largest employers’ union on Thursday slammed as “blackmail” a threat by the state to take over a plant owned by steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, amid outrage in Mittal’s native India that he was a victim of racism. AP PHOTO/REMY DE LA MAUVINIERE

PARIS—The head of France’s largest employers’ union on Thursday slammed as “blackmail” a threat by the state to take over a plant owned by steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, amid outrage in Mittal’s native India that he was a victim of racism.

President Francois Hollande has himself dangled the threat in talks with the billionaire, ranked 21st in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people, over the row on the Florange plant in the eastern Lorraine region.

France has threatened to take over the plant if ArcelorMittal goes ahead with plans to permanently close two blast furnaces on the site that the company regards as uneconomic.

ArcelorMittal, 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.

Laurence Parisot, the head of the influential Medef employers’ union, said the proposed move, first unveiled by Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg, was “simply scandalous.”

“If the aim through these statements is simply to exercise pressure, to engage in blackmail in the course of negotiations, it is unacceptable,” she said on RTL radio.

Parisot said it was not up to the state “to start telling each company in France ‘this is our strategy,’” adding that only “an entrepreneur can know if something is profitable or not.”

Former premier Alain Juppe, a heavyweight figure in the right-wing opposition, called for Montebourg to be sacked over remarks he deemed “calamitous” for the image of France.

“It is time to replace someone who is on his way to becoming the minister for industrial collapse,” Juppe wrote in his blog.

The case, a litmus test of Hollande’s commitment to spur growth, create jobs and boost the low competitiveness of French industry, has created outrage in India with messages on social media networks saying Mittal would have been treated differently if he was a white man.

Some of them also recalled the opposition he faced from Arcelor executives and French interests during his contested takeover of the company in 2006.

“This is not socialism, this is racism,” the Indian site Firstpost said in an article.

“ArcelorMittal is not the first to cut jobs in France. Peugeot has announced 8,000 job cuts in France, Sanofi 900 and Carrefour 500-600,” it said referring to blue-chip French companies.

Hollande had dangled the threat of nationalization just minutes before his one-to-one talks Tuesday with the India-born Mittal, which the government spokeswoman said had been “frank and firm.”

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.

The French government, meanwhile, wants the company to guarantee the estimated 650 jobs on the line.

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.

But the minister, widely regarded as a loose cannon whose mantra to promote ‘Made in France’ has even seen him pose in a Breton sailor top for a popular magazine, said on Wednesday that an investor in the business is interested in buying Florange.

“We have a buyer, who is a steelman, an industrialist, who is not a financier, who wants to invest his own money and who is ready to put almost 400 million euros into renovating this plant,” Montebourg told deputies.

A group of socialist members of parliament has objected that Mittal does not have French interests at heart.

The government’s stance is being closely watched by investors and London’s irrepressible mayor Boris Johnson seized upon the row to invite fleeing businessmen to the British capital.

“I see the sans-culottes appear to have captured the government in Paris. The French minister has been so eccentric to call for a massive investment to depart from France,” he said, during a visit to India.

“I have no hesitation in saying here, ‘Venez à Londres, mes amis!’ (Come to London, my friends),” he said. “Come to the business capital of the world.”

The “sans-culottes,” meaning without “knee breeches,” were the most militant supporters of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: ArcelorMittal , Business , France , politics , Restructuring , steel



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

  • What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  • Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  • 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  • Napoles surgery in Makati hospital successful
  • Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Sports

  • Mixers trim Aces; Painters repulse Bolts
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • UAAP board tackles new rules
  • Baguio climb to decide Le Tour de Filipinas
  • Lifestyle

  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Visiting chefs from Denmark get creative with ‘ube,’ ‘ buko,’ ‘calamansi,’ mangoes
  • Salted baked potatoes
  • A first in a mall: Authentic Greek yogurt–made fresh in front of diners
  • Entertainment

  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • From prison to the peak of success
  • ‘Asedillo’ location thrives
  • Business

  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Philippine Airlines to stop shipment of shark fins
  • PH banks not ready for Asean integration
  • Stocks down on profit-taking
  • Banks allowed to use ‘cloud’
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Believe it or not: Filipinos love US more than Yanks
  • Marketplace