LIBERTY Steel Group (LSG) has acquired the French steel assets of Moselle, France-based Hayange and the Ascoval steelworks following the decision in July by the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Strasbourg to award French rail manufacturer to LSG. The deal secures the future of the nationally strategic plants and their 700-strong workforce.

Hayange manufactures a wide range of steel rails for nationally significant infrastructure clients including France’s national rail operator SNCF and RATP, the operator of the Paris metro system. The company is regarded as a strategic asset by the French government as it employs around 430 people and produces over 300kt/yr of rail. LSG will seek to grow sales of rails across Europe and into other markets.

LSG is already supplying the Australian railway network from its steelworks in Whyalla, South Australia.

Ascoval, a 600kt/yr EAF-based steelworks, is based in Saint-Saulve in northern France and employs around 270 people. It was placed into an ad hoc receivership process last year. The plant manufactures steel blooms, billets and other forged products from recycled scrap metal andl will use recycled steel, including recovered scrap rail, to supply Hayange, creating an integrated French GREENSTEEL rail business.

According to LSG, Ascoval and Hayange will create a truly integrated value chain and become LSG’s first steel business in France which provides the platform for further GREENSTEEL production and product developments in France.

LSG believes that its GREENSTEEL model seeks to transform steel making through increased use of steel recycling using EAFs as well as low carbon and renewable energy sources to power industrial processes. Hydrogen will be used instead of coking coal as a reducing agent for iron ore through Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) plants to remove CO2 emissions from steel making. LSG’s GREENSTEEL strategy is a key pillar in the GFG Alliance’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2030 (CN30).

Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of GFG Alliance and LIBERTY Steel Group, described the acquisition as a landmark moment for the workers of Hayange and Ascoval, for the French steel industry, and for LIBERTY Steel Group’s GREENSTEEL ambitions in France. "We have been interested in both of these sites for many years and have always believed that their futures were interlinked. We will revive both businesses, in a partnership supported by the extended GFG Alliance family, which I believe will be able to connect them to bigger opportunities in the market, host downstream developments, and provide additional demand for Ascoval’s steel," he said.

“Our vision is to build a world class rail and rail services business with international reach, based on our GREENSTEEL model. We are confident we have all the skills, knowledge, and capability to achieve this ambition and have developed a combined business plan which is informed by the highly committed employees and management of both sites, and supported by their unions.

“For us the logic of combining Hayange and Ascoval into a mutually supportive steel and rail business is clear. We intend to develop Ascoval as a GREENSTEEL hub and to drive Hayange into new markets through strong engagement with European rail operators seeking to make their networks carbon neutral. By designing a business based on a closely coupled circular economy, we believe Hayange and Ascoval can become the European leader in low carbon rail infrastructure.”

LIBERTY Steel Group has committed to providing an initial €65m in new financing for Hayange and Ascoval to enact its industrial plan.