Arcelor, Threatened By Mittal, Offers Bumper Payouts To Shareholders

The European steel group Arcelor sought to shore up shareholder loyalty, offering them five billion euros in share buybacks or special dividends in hopes of fending off a hostile bid from Mittal Steel.

But Mittal Steel vowed to press ahead with its share-swap and cash offer for Arcelor. "Today's announcement by the board of Arcelor goes against the interests of its own shareholders and is an attempt to deprive them of the right to decide on the merits of Mittal Steel's offer," Mittal Steel insisted.

Luxembourg-based Arcelor also raised its proposed 2005 dividend payout to 1.85 euros per share from the 1.20 euros announced in February, meaning that an additional 415 million euros (US$504 million) would be available.

After announcing record 2005 net earnings in mid-February, the company said it would nearly double its yearly dividend from 0.65 euros in 2004 to 1.20 in 2005, adding 352 million euros in shareholder payouts. With the announcement on April 4, Arcelor's 2005 dividend payouts should now amount to an increase of 767 million euros over the level in 2004.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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