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France to get Mittal's plan for Arcelor next week

By Staff
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PARIS, Feb 22 (Reuters) French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said on Wednesday that Mittal Steel would present the government with an industrial plan for its planned takeover of Arcelor next week.

''From the first day we have demanded to see an industrial project and I have good news for you ... I have been informed this morning that we are going to get this industrial project early next week,'' Breton said in parliament.

''That will allow the services of Bercy (the Finance Ministry) to finally ask all the necessary questions and allow us to defend the interests of France,'' he added.

Breton said that the senate had accepted a change in the law that would allow companies under attack from a hostile takeover to resort to a ''poison pill'' defence by issuing share warrants.

French government officials, and Breton in particular, have been outspoken in their opposition to the billion unsolicited takeover proposal by Mittal Steel.

Breton, a former chief executive of France Telecom and Thomson Multimedia, had called the proposed bid ''badly prepared'' and said the hostile approach had broken unwritten rules on how to start a takeover bid.

With 26,600 employees in France, Arcelor is an important company for the country and in the run-up to the 2007 presidential elections the government is conscious of the votes of steel sector workers.

But unlike Luxembourg and Belgium's Walloon region, France no longer has a stake in the company that was formed in 2002 out of the merger of French Usinor, Luxembourg's Arbed and Spain's Aceralia.

Mittal Steel was founded and is still controlled by Lakshmi Mittal, a British-resident steel billionaire born in India, and the political opposition to the takeover proposal was perceived by some Indian politicians as xenophobic.

President Jacques Chirac, during a state visit to India earlier this week, told Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the French concerns were legitimate and not based in racism.

''It is ... the right of Europeans to care about the jobs, their future. We have absolutely nothing against a non-European bidding on a European company ... we are waiting to see what the offer actually involves,'' he said on Monday.

Reuters SBJ GC2119

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