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France must get used to bids from India-WTO's Lamy

Written by: Staff

PARIS, Feb 24 (Reuters) France must get used to foreign takeover bids from countries such as India, WTO chief Pascal Lamy said in remarks published on Friday, following French protests over a bid by an Indian-born steel magnate for Arcelor.

Lakshmi Mittal, head of Mittal Steel, is due to meet French Finance Minister Thierry Breton on Monday to try to persuade him of the merits of his bid for Arcelor, the world's second-biggest steelmaker.

''These are operations of a new type,'' the World Trade Organisation's director-general told Le Monde daily in an interview.

''When it's Europeans launching these kind of offers, they don't see any novelty in it. When it's the Americans investing it seems normal. But when it is the Chinese or Indians, it's almost abnormal for public opinion,'' he said.

''One has to get used to it. Because one day it will be the South Africans or others doing it,'' Lamy was quoted as saying.

French government officials, and Breton in particular, have been outspoken in their comments on the unsolicited takeover proposal by Mittal Steel, expressing ''deep concerns'' over jobs.

However Breton, speaking to reporters on Thursday during a visit to Lavaur in southern France, said he would study the proposal ''very seriously''.

Arcelor urged investors on Thursday not to cave in to the billion bid from Mittal Steel. Guy Dolle, chief executive at Luxembourg-based Arcelor, said he would present a 2006-2010 strategic plan next week as part of a campaign to persuade shareholders to reject the offer from Mittal.

Lamy said it was not surprising that news of such new bidders was not easily sinking in in a country like France. But he noted French companies were also buying firms in India.

''And then, Arcelor is a globalised company with European headquarters,'' Lamy said.

''The same is true for Mittal, in a steel market which is very globalised. It's the world as it is today, but having said that, as this remains a hostile operation. It is sparking big emotions,'' he said.

Despite assurances from Mittal that an acquisition would not lead to job losses, politicians in France and Luxembourg have raised the spectre of potential job cuts in voicing their opposition to the bid.


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