Mittal Fires Back At Chirac Over Arcelor Bid

Lakshmi Mittal, CEO, Mittal Steel has fired back at charges by President Jacques Chirac that his $23 billion bid for steel giant Arcelor contradicts normal business practices. The French president who left New Delhi on Feb. 21 charged that Mittal Steel's "hostile bid had been made contrary to practice, with no prior explanation and no reason given on a large European company."

Chirac last week told an Indian magazine the bid went against the interests of Arcelor which has thousands of French employees. Indian commentators have called France's reaction xenophobic. Chirac said he did not understand "what all the fuss is about" adding it was "the right of the Europeans to be concerned about employment problems, technology problems."

"We have made a fully transparent offer for Arcelor which is based on sound industrial logic ... we will create a stronger European company with a strong global footstep," Mittal told the Economic Times. "We believe this logic is well understood in the favorable response the transaction has received from the market," Mittal said, referring to a sharp rise in Arcelor shares. To Chirac's insistence on Feb. 20 that, "We have absolutely nothing against a non-European bidding against a European company," Mittal replied that Netherlands-based "Mittal Steel is a European company."

Chirac last week told an Indian magazine the bid went against the interests of Arcelor which has thousands of French employees. Indian commentators have called France's reaction xenophobic. Chirac said he did not understand "what all the fuss is about" adding it was "the right of the Europeans to be concerned about employment problems, technology problems."

Mitall he was "very sad" about "racist" remarks made about his bid to create a company controlling 10% of the global steel market. The row was "not an issue of Lakshmi Mittal. It is a much larger issue. If a company like ours faces resistance for merger, it could affect businessmen in India who are aspiring to expand globally."

Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath last week warned European governments not to consider skin color in business deals.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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