25 de septiembre de 2014 / 14:43 / en 3 años

At least 5 offers expected for Italy's Ilva steel plant - minister

* ArcelorMittal offer at most advanced stage - minister

* Factory at centre of environmental scandal

* Potential buyers don’t want judicial troubles - ministry source

By Francesco Guarascio and Massimiliano Di Giorgio

BRUSSELS/ROME, Sept 25 (Reuters) - At least five offers are expected for Ilva, the southern Italian steelmaker seized by magistrates last year after it was accused of failing to contain toxic emissions, Industry Minister Federica Guidi said on Thursday.

Labour unions had already confirmed that ArcelorMittal , the world largest steelmaker, and India’s JSW Steel were interested in Ilva.

There are “at least another four offers other than that of ArcelorMittal,” Guidi told reporters in Brussels before a meeting with her European colleagues.

The ArcelorMittal offer “is at a more advanced stage than the others,” she added.

Ilva, privately owned by the Riva family, is Europe’s largest steel plant by output capacity and is of strategic importance to the southern European steel sector, where it supplies carmakers and other manufacturers.

But the plant, in the southern port city of Taranto, is at the centre of an environmental scandal that led the Italian government to place it under “special administration”, a procedure designed to save large companies and avoid job losses.

A source close to the matter told Reuters that Brazil’s Companhia Siderugica Nacional (CSN) is one of the companies interested in Ilva. A spokesman at CSN could not immediately be reached.

Texas Pacific Group, a U.S. private investment fund, also may want to buy Ilva, the source said. Texas Pacific had no immediate comment.

Italy’s Marcegaglia, a steel processor that is supplied by Ilva, may make an offer as long as it has an international partner, sources have told Reuters.

Marcegaglia executives attended a meeting between minister Guidi, Ilva’s special administrator Piero Gnudi and ArcelorMittal CEO for Europe Aditya Mittal on Tuesday, the industry ministry said on Tuesday.

However a spokesman from Emirates Steel Industries IPO-EMSI.DU rejected suggestions it may make an offer. A spokesman told Reuters it “had no interest in these acquisitions”.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said he will decide the plant’s future by Christmas. Thousands of jobs are at stake as the country’s steel industry struggles to cope with falling demand and the economy, the euro zone’s third-biggest, is mired in its third recession in six years.

The potential buyers’ main concern is how they would be protected from the upshot of the Riva family’s ongoing judicial troubles, a ministry source said.

Italian magistrates have arrested some members of the Riva family in the past, and seized various assets, after accusing them of allowing toxic emissions that caused abnormally high levels of cancer and respiratory illness in the region. (Additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak in Milan, Isla Binnie in Rome; writing by Steve Scherer)

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