April 20, 2018 / 3:12 PM / a month ago

ArcelorMittal to gain EU approval for Ilva acquisition: sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - ArcelorMittal (MT.AS), the world’s largest steelmaker, is on track to win EU antitrust clearance to acquire Italian peer Ilva after agreeing to sell a number of significant assets across Europe, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on the roof of the ArcelorMittal steelworks headquarters in Ostrava, Czech Republic, April 1, 2016. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

ArcelorMittal has offered to sell its only galvanized steel plant in Italy, as well as units in Romania, Macedonia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and in Belgium.

Sources say that is a far bigger package of sales than originally planned as the company bowed to regulatory demands in its quest to buy Europe’s biggest capacity steel plant. The galvanized steel plant in Italy, Piombino mills, for example, makes 800,000 tonnes a year of the product.

The EU competition enforcer has been concerned that the deal may reduce competition in some flat carbon steel products and result in higher prices for customers in southern Europe.

The European Commission, which is scheduled to decide on the deal by May 23, and ArcelorMittal declined to comment.

Steel service center S.Polo Lamiere said it had provided industry feedback on ArcelorMittal’s concessions to the Commission.

“The global feedback was that those remedies were considered sufficient by the different operators in the market, so the feedback the Commission received from stakeholders was positive,” its CEO Tomasso Sandrini told Reuters.

The size of the divestments has prompted worries in some countries where the businesses to be sold are located.

Luxembourg Economy Minister Etienne Schneider on Monday wrote to European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, saying it was regrettable that regulators had demanded hefty asset sales from ArcelorMittal and that Europe needed a strong industrial base.

Vestager said she would make sure that buyers of those assets have the expertise and financial resources to continue operating them.

Ilva, based in the city of Taranto in southern Italy, has been dogged by charges of corruption and environmental crimes for years - charges that it denies.

It was also the beneficiary of two loans worth about 84 million euros ($103 million), which it will have to repay to the Italian state after the Commission ruled that these constituted illegal state aid.

    Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Maytaal Angel in London, Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels and Massimiliano Di Giorgio in Milan; Editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek/Andrew Heavens/Susan Fenton

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