ArcelorMittal did not commit to keeping French plant open

Vidya Ram London | Updated on March 12, 2018


ArcelorMittal made no commitment to keep open the blast furnaces at its Florange site in the Lorraine region of north-eastern France to the French government at the time of the merger in 2006, according to documents seen by Business Line.

According to a section of the industrial plan provided by Mittal Steel to the government of then President, Jacques Chirac, dated March 10, 2006, the company states that “Mittal Steel will implement Arcelor’s restructuring plans in Europe,” pointing to four rationalisation initiatives the company had embarked on or intended to embark on in Western Europe.

Apollo Plan

“Pending a detailed review with Arcelor management and an assessment of the proposed timing, Mittal Steel will broadly follow the current plans, honouring all of the Arcelor’s social commitments,” the document reads.

Among the plans identified was Arcelor’s so-called “Apollo Plan” to increase competitiveness by closing down the upstream portion of flat carbon continental European plants (which included blast furnaces at Florange, as well as those at Liege, which were closed earlier this year).

Two years later, following the closure of an electric arc furnace at its site in Gandrange, also in the Lorraine region of France, ArcelorMittal struck an agreement with the French government on February 5, 2009, which included details of plans to continue to operate the blast furnaces and liquid steel operations at Florange beyond 2010 — the date Arcelor had earmarked for closure of these sites under the Apollo plan.

However, the agreement adds that the commitment is made on condition that the “medium and long term economic outlook be favourable.”

Countering charges

The documents appear to contradict statements made by the French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg who, in a controversial interview with French financial daily Les Echos earlier this week, suggested that the company had reneged on commitments it had made since the merger of the two companies in 2006.

ArcelorMittal is yet to publicly respond to Montebourg’s accusations.

It has only said discussions were ongoing with the government, following Mittal’s meeting with the President at the Elysee palace.

Published on November 30, 2012

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