Arnaud Montebourg, France’s minister for Industrial Recovery says he is considering the temporary renationalisation of the Florange plant in the north east Lorraine region of France following the closure of iron and steelmaking there in October.
The plant is part of the world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal group. The Company gave notice to the French Government in September that it intended to close the hot metal end of the plant and offered them the opportunity to find a buyer for the blast furnaces and steelmaking plant. This offer expires on 31 November.
The Government say they have two interested buyers but these are only prepared to take over the whole plant, not just part. CEO Lakshmi Mittal says he is only prepared to sell the blast furnaces but not the remainder of the plant. Mr Mittal’s refusal to consider this prompted the outburst from Mr Montebourg who accused Mr Mittal of relegating on promises said to have been made to preserve operations when he acquired the French steel flat products group Arcelor in 2006 in a €26.9bn bid.
ArcelorMittal employs some 22000 workers in France, 2200 at Florange. Around 630 employees at Florange would lose their jobs if the closure goes ahead.
Arcelor Mittal has 11 blast furnaces in northern Europe − in France, Germany and Belgium − and recently shut down the two at Liège in Belgium and another in France at Dunkirk. Mittal says the Florange furnaces are unprofitable to run as the site is too far from a coastal port.
In Q3 2012, ArcelorMittal reported a loss of €547M.
Mr Mittal met French premier François Hollande on Wednesday but it appears the matter was not resolved. During his recent election campaign last May, Socialist party leader Mr Hollande pledged to alter legislation if necessary to save the Florenge plant.