French minister says Mittal "not welcome" in France

Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:21am EST
 
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By Nicholas Vinocur and Yann Le Guernigou

PARIS (Reuters) - Steelmaker Mittal, which acquired France's Arcelor in 2006, is no longer welcome in France due to years of broken promises, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Monday, intensifying the row over plans to close two furnaces in northeastern France.

Montebourg's attack on ArcelorMittal ISPA.AS risks exacerbating tensions in a dispute that is central to Socialist President Francois Hollande's efforts to save jobs and reverse years of industrial decline.

It came after Montebourg, one of the most left-wing ministers in the government, said last week that France could nationalize the company's Florange site on a temporary basis while the government tries to find a buyer.

ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, has said it will shut down two blast furnaces at Florange from December 1 unless the government can find a buyer to operate them.

"We no longer want Mittal in France because they haven't respected France," Montebourg said in an interview with Les Echos business daily published on Monday.

He said Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal had told "shameful lies" since 2006 about the group's plans and had not kept his promises to the French government.

"The problem with the blast furnaces at Florange is not the blast furnaces at Florange, it's Mittal," he said.

A source close to Lakshmi Mittal, who according to French media is due to meet with Hollande on Tuesday, told Reuters that management were "very shocked" at Montebourg's words.   Continued...

 
France's Minister for Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg (C) addresses employees of ArcelorMittal after a meeting with trade union representatives at the town hall in Florange, Eastern France, September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler