London: France is threatening to nationalize a steel plant in the eastern part of the country unless the Indian-born billionaire Lakshmi Mittal owner of the firm agrees to sell it to a private buyer.
ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steel-maker, wants to close or sell two blast-furnaces at Florange in Lorraine but to hold on to other profitable activities at the site.
France insists that the whole complex must remain open under a single owner, the Independent reports.
In France, the dispute has come to symbolise the determination of President François Hollande to resist, or even reverse, the erosion of France’s industrial base.
According to the paper, the rhetorical temperature in the dispute was raised earlier this week when the left-wing French Industry minister, Arnaud Montebourg, said Mittal was “no longer welcome” in France.
Since ArcelorMillal owns more than 100 sites in France employing 20,000 people, this seemed a counter-productive approach to protecting the country’s productive base.
Montebourg later backtracked somewhat, saying he had only meant to show the red card to “Mittal’s methods” which he listed as “broken promises, blackmail and threats”.
According to the paper, in 2006, after a hotly disputed hostile takeover, the Mittal organisation merged with Arcelor, which had inherited much of the old French, Luxembourgish and Spanish steel industries.
Paris says that Mittal promised at the time, and again in 2009, to maintain full steel production, including the blast furnaces, at the Florange site, the paper said.
The French government also accuses ArcelorMittal of failing to pay some of its French taxes, it added.