ArcelorMittal eyeing Liberty Steel assets in France

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ArcelorMittal is eyeing the potential acquisition of Liberty Steel France, which includes a steelmaking plant at Ascoval and rail rolling mill at Hayange, a source within the Luxembourg-headquartered company told MetalMiner.

“We were interested last year, when they were available,” the source said.

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Bids are due for assessment likely in July, the source added.

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ArcelorMittal strategy

One analyst expressed his surprise on ArcelorMittal’s interest in those plants. In February, the steelmaker announced financial results for 2020, stating that its strategy would be to focus on organic growth.

ArcelorMittal also rolls rails in Europe at Gijón in Spain and Luxembourg’s Rodange mill. It also does so in Poland at the Dąbrowa Górnicza and Królewska sites.

The financial difficulties that Liberty’s parent company GFG Alliance now faces could possibly allow ArcelorMittal to acquire the assets at lower prices, the analyst added.

Rothschild & Co (Paris) is managing sale of the assets on Liberty’s behalf, a spokesman for the steelmaking group told MetalMiner in an email.

A reduction in working capital support since the collapse of Greensill Capital prompted Liberty Hayange and Ascoval up for sale, the spokesman noted.

“Given the strength of the steel market and the high-quality products we produce, we remain confident that we can secure new financing,” the spokesman’s email added. “At the same time, we are taking prudent steps to explore sale options for these businesses and will be inviting interested parties to submit offers.”

Liberty plans

Liberty acquired the two plants in August. At that time, it announced plans to invest an additional €65 million ($79 million) in them. The group had also planned to supply feedstock from Ascoval to Hayange for rolling.

French courts approved Liberty’s acquisition of Hayange. The national government had blocked Chinese group Jingye from acquiring that plant under its acquisition that same year of British Steel, citing strategic concerns.

Hayange is in France’s Moselle department and can roll up to 300,000 metric tons per year of rail. The plant’s key clients are SNCF Réseau, the infrastructure company of France’s national rail network, as well as Paris Metro operator RATP Group.

Liberty also acquired Ascoval from Greybull.

Ascoval is in northeast France, near Valenciennes. The plant has one 90-metric ton electric furnace with a crude capacity of 500,000-600,000 metric tons per year. From there, it taps liquid steel for casting into round billets in diameters of sizes from 180-325 mm. The site also planned from late August to cast 155×155 mm square billets. In addition, it planned to cast 255×330 mm as well as 300×365 mm blooms.

Other interested parties in Ascoval and Hayange include Germany’s Saarstahl and an Italian steelmaking group, reports stated.

Saarstahl, however, officially declined to comment on reports that it is among the interested parties. Meanwhile, the Italian group did not respond to inquiries about their interest in the French plant.

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