France, ArcelorMittal spar over Florange site deepens

ArcelorMittal, led by India-born billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, wants to close two blast furnaces at Florange site.

London: France has said that talks with ArcelorMittal on finding a suitor for the steel giant's facilities in the country would continue till Saturday even as the government has threatened to nationalise the company's assets, according to media reports.

ArcelorMittal, led by India-born billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, wants to close two blast furnaces at Florange site.

However, faced with prospect of job losses, the French government has said that whole facilities owned by the steel maker would be nationalised.

French President Francois Hollande has threatened to nationalise plant owned by the steelmaker. Earlier, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg threatened that the multinational is no longer welcome in the country, British daily 'The Telegraph' has reported.

Hollande and Lakshmi Mittal held a meeting for about an hour yesterday, but reports suggested that it brought little progress.

Quoting a presidential statement, the daily said, "Discussions between the state and the company (would) continue" until Saturday, to try and find a new investor for the site.

As per the report, Hollande's nationalisation warning came as forty MPs from his Socialist party said they favoured a temporary takeover by the French state of ArcelorMittal's plant in Florange.

Attributing to a joint statement of 40 MPs, the daily said, "Mittal does not respect our country".

The report said the Chairman and CEO of the steel giant is locked in a battle with France over the future of the Florange site in the traditional, but declining, heartland of the French steel industry in the eastern Lorraine region.

ArcelorMittal has said the two blast furnaces at Florange were uncompetitive in a tough trading climate.

Going by the report, the company gave the government two months, which expires on Saturday, to find a buyer for them. The government says it has two offers, but only for the entire Florange site, including other facilities, which ArcelorMittal wants to retain and keep operating, it added.

According to the daily, ArcelorMittal has warned that nationalisation of the Florange facilities would threaten the viability of all of its activities across France, where it employs 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, 'The Wall Street Journal' has reported that as per French government, it would be difficult to sell furnaces without ArcelorMittal's other Florange plant factory, which refines and finishes steel, mostly for the auto industry.