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Written by: Staff

BRUSSELS, May 12 (Reuters) Arcelor, the world's No.2 steel maker, announced on Friday a buyback of up to 150 million shares at a maximum 50 euros apiece and first-quarter core earnings that beat analyst expectations.

Arcelor had previously said it would distribute up to 5 billion euros ($6.4 billion) to shareholders if an unsolicited takeover bid by Mittal Steel failed or was withdrawn.

But an Arcelor spokesman clarified that the buyback would be launched independently from the offer by the rival firm's billionaire chief executive, Lakshmi Mittal.

A shareholders meeting to approve the buyback has been set for May 19. A second meeting will be called for end-June if at least 50 percent of the share capital is not represented at the first.

First-quarter earnings before interest, tax, debt and amortisation (EBITDA) reached 1.427 billion euros versus 1.697 billion a year earlier. The figure was in above a Reuters consensus of 1.33 billion euros.

Net profit stood at 761 million euros versus a year-earlier 949 million.

Arcelor, which is seeking to fend off the unsolicited 20 billion euro takeover offer from Mittal, said its sales rose 17.3 percent to 9.565 billion euros.

The takeover battle between Arcelor and Mittal turned nastier on Thursday when Luxembourg-based Arcelor said it had filed a lawsuit in the United States against its unwanted suitor, alleging a patent violation.

($1=.7862 euro) REUTERS CS GC1134

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