February 8, 2018 / 9:41 AM / 3 months ago

ArcelorMittal to argue case for steelmaker Ilva purchase at EU hearing

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - World No. 1 steelmaker ArcelorMittal will seek to fend off EU antitrust concerns about its proposed 1.8-billion-euro (£1.6 billion) purchase of Italian peer Ilva at a hearing on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A red-hot steel plate passes through a press at the ArcelorMittal steel plant in Ghent, Belgium, July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The European Commission launched a full-scale investigation in November over worries the deal might reduce competition for several flat carbon steel products and lead to higher prices for small- and medium-sized companies in southern Europe.

ArcelorMittal Chief Financial Officer Aditya Mittal headed a team of lawyers and economists at the hearing, which began on Thursday morning. Ilva Commissioner Enrico Laghi were also present.

Nobody from the Italian government was present, a government source told Reuters.

Commission officials at the hearing included Carles Esteva Mosso who is in charge of mergers, lawyers and economists.

The EU competition enforcer had rejected an earlier offer of concessions from ArcelorMittal, saying that it was insufficient.

Sources told Reuters the company subsequently struck a preliminary deal to sell its steel mill in Piombino, Italy to Italian steelmaker Arvedi in a bid to appease the Commission.

The regulator is scheduled to rule on the case by April 4, a deadline which can be extended once the company offers concessions.

Ilva, based in the city of Taranto in southern Italy and plagued by charges of corruption and environmental crime for years, is Europe’s largest steel plant.

The proposed tie-up comes as steel majors Tata Steel and Thyssenkrupp look to merge their European assets.

Additional reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio in Rome; Editing by Edmund Blair

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