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Steel Sultan comes calling with Rs 40,000 crore investment

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, July 7 (UNI) Steel baron Laxmi Niwas Mittal, on his first visit home after Arcelor takeover in Europe, today announced Rs 40,000 crore investment in India for his greenfield projects in Orissa and Jharkhand.

Mr Mittal who arrived here this evening, after meeting Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, said the Arcelor-Mittal, as the Mittal Steel is now known as, is committed to grow in India in terms of investments in the core areas of steel and oil.

''We are definitely committed to grow in India making our presence stronger,'' Mr Mittal said at a crowded news conference going live worldwide.

On the controversial question whether the Mittal Steel is shifting its proposed 12-million steel plant from Jharkhand to Orissa, Mr Mittal said while he was ''excited about Orissa'', he has not decided to pull out from the BJP-ruled tribal state yet.

A joint working group has been set up with the Orissa Government for studying the feasibility of setting up a 12 million capacity in two phases.

Interestingly, with the Mittals going there, Orissa will have investment from the world's two largest steel leaders. Posco of South Korea is the other steel major which has made investment announcements in the state. However, as Mr Mittal put it, the Arcelor-Mittal will have a combined capacity of over 112 million tonnes while the second largest group is not more than 25 per cent of it. Thus, the Mittals are five years ahead of the competition.

''At this stage it is difficult to say whether we are pulling out of Jharkhand although the progress which we expected from the state government in terms of land and mines has not been up to the mark,'' India-born Mittal said.

On his ''Thank You'' visit to India after winning over one of the most dramatic takeovers in the world, Mr Mittal met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet colleagues including Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora.

''I cannot forget the indirect support I received from the Government and friends in India''.

Allaying fears of major Indian steel-makers, Mr Mittal said the Indian steel industry is too fragmented and small for him to really prowl upon. ''The industry here is at the moment on an expansion mode. We are not interested in it now and will look at it after five to seven years, once the expansion is complete. ''He indicated that it would be China, rather than India, which could be on his takeover radar. He cited how the Chinese Government has stopped permission to small plants, as they cause pollution, making a perfect setting for him to prey upon.

Analysts said the worried domestic steel makers with small capacity can breathe easy for now. The decision of the Tata Sons to hike its promoters' stake in Tata Steel was also seen as a ward-off attempts from the takeovers, possibly from the Mittals.

On a question whether he would be interested to partner with the Steel Authority of India Ltd, Mr Mittal - flanked by his son Aditya Mittal said, his joint venture with ONGC - OVL is one good example of the PSUs going global with private partnership.

Asked whether he would follow the richest men - Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, Mr Mittal said he is too young for such gesture. ''I am still young. Let met work more''.

UNI RT-PC VJ HS1801

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