Arcelor expects to hold talks with Mittal Steel soon
PARIS, June 7 (Reuters) Steelmaker Arcelor plans to meet Mittal Steel to discuss the business plan in Mittal's bid for Arcelor, giving Mittal some potential leverage to counter Arcelor's plan to merge with Russia's Severstal.
''Although Arcelor's review of the Mittal Steel business plan is ongoing, Arcelor has identified a number of questions related to the business plan and has requested a meeting for the purpose of seeking answers to these questions,'' Arcelor said in a statement on Wednesday.
''Arcelor anticipates that a meeting between representatives of the two management teams to discuss the Mittal Steel standalone business plan will take place in the coming days,'' it added.
Mittal's 22 billion euro (.3 billion) takeover offer for Arcelor is competing against an alternative proposal unveiled last week by Arcelor, in which Arcelor agreed to a 13 billion euro deal with a white knight in the form of Russian steelmaker Severstal.
However, some Arcelor shareholders have protested that they had little say in the deal with Severstal, which would give the Russian group's majority owner and chairman, Alexei Mordashov, 32.2 percent of the enlarged group.
Arcelor shares rose as much as 1.8 percent to an intraday peak of 33.39 euros in early trading in Paris. The stock then eased back to 33.13 euros, a rise of 1 percent.
Mittal Steel shares in Amsterdam were down 0.2 percent.
French fund management company Richelieu Finance, which holds shares in Arcelor, welcomed the decision to meet Mittal.
''It's a good move for shareholders and it's a step in the right direction,'' said Julien Quistrebert, analyst at Richelieu Finance.
Arcelor shareholders have long called on the European steel company to hold talks with Mittal's management, which is led by Indian-born billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.
The world's two biggest steelmakers have been involved in their bid tussle since late January over Mittal's plans to acquire the European group and forge an industry giant with control of 10 percent of the global steel market.
Mittal's bid also ruffled the feathers of European governments such as France, Spain and Luxembourg, who are all keen to protect Arcelor's local workforce.
REUTERS PV RK1318