Digging a Deeper Hole

by Andrew Stuttaford


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.

I don’t know who is right or wrong on the facts of what was or was not promised, but the force of Montebourg’s language is quite striking, particularly given this little fact:

ArcelorMittal… employs some 20,000 people across France…

It’s hard to think that this is the best way to attract foreign investors.

The Corner

The one and only.