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ArcelorMittal tackles US$16bn debt

Steel giant scales down, sells shares
Published: 
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal.

The ArcelorMittal plant at Point Lisas, central Trinidad, is just the latest to be closed by the global steel giant in recent months.

Since the latter quarter of 2015, similar scenarios have been playing out across Europe, Africa and other parts of the world where the multinational corporation has extensive industrial footprints.

The company, the world’s leading steel and mining company, is present in 60 countries, has industrial operations in 19 countries and produces approximately ten per cent of the world’s steel. 

However, after reporting a loss of US$8 billion last year, including US$6.7 billion in the fourth quarter, and incurring about US$16 billion in debt, ArcelorMittal has been on a drive to cut costs and raise capital.

Just weeks before the Point Lisas closure, the company announced plans to mothball one of its plants in Sestao, Spain, citing “extremely adverse” market conditions in the European steel industry. The indefinite closure is affecting approximately 330 jobs.

Last November, ArcelorMittal SA (AMSA), the South African arm of the steel empire, received a bailout from that country’s government to prevent plant closures in two South African towns where the entire economy is dependent on that industry. 

AMSA officials had approached the Jacob Zuma-led government for rescue assistance claiming that otherwise the plants would be closed, including a massive facility at Vanderbijlpark which employs 4,500 people.

There are also reports that 12,000 steelworkers have been laid off across the United States in recent months due to the turmoil in the global market.

In addition to shuttering or scaling down plants to reduce debt, ArcelorMittal is turning to investors, offering its stockholders as many as seven new shares at US$2.44 per share for every ten they already own. The company is hoping to raise some US$3 billion by that route. 

However, chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal and his family will retain a 37 per cent stake in the company.

Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, JP Morgan and Societe Generale Corporate and Investment Banking are backing and facilitating the sale of the additional stock.

In another bid to raise capital, ArcelorMittal has sold its 35 per cent stake in Gestamp Automoción, a Spanish multi-national engineering company, to the majority shareholder, the Riberas family, for a total cash consideration of €875 million. 

The transaction, which was finalised last month, is unconditional and payment is expected to be made to ArcelorMittal within six months. In addition to the cash consideration, the steel company will receive a payment of €10m as a 2015 dividend.

Lakshi Mittal, the man behind the steel empire, is ranked as one of wealthiest men in Britain, although he does not hold British citizenship. He is the 57th “most powerful person” of the 72 named in Forbes’ Most Powerful People list for 2015.

ArcelorMittal was created by the takeover of Western European steel maker Arcelor by Indian-owned multinational steel maker Mittal Steel in 2006. The resulting merged business is headquartered in Luxembourg. 

The company came into T&T in 1989 as Caribbean Ispat after parent company, then known as Ispat International, acquired the former state-owned Iron and Steel Company of T&T (ISCOTT). The local plant has the capability of producing 550,000 metric tonnes of hot briquetted iron (HBI) annually. 

Besides HBI, it can also produce billet and wire rod coils. More than 90 per cent of the plant’s output was exported to the Caribbean, Central and South America, Canada, the United States and the Far East.

Mittal Steel was originally set up in 1976 by Mittal, who steered the company’s rapid growth over the years by combining a successful consolidation strategy with a number of major acquisitions. 

Apart from T&T, the steel giant’s other major acquisitions included Siderurgica del Balsas (Mexico) in 1992, Sidbec (Canada) in 1994, Karmet (Kazakhstan) and Hamburger Stahlwerke (Germany) in 1995, Thyssen Duisburg (Germany) in 1997, Inland Steel (US) in 1998, Unimetal (France) in 1999, Sidex (Romania) and Annaba (Algeria) in 2001, Nova Hut (Czech Republic) in 2003, BH Steel (Bosnia), Balkan Steel (Macedonia), PHS (Poland) and Iscor (South Africa) in 2004, ISG (US), Kryvorizhstal (Ukraine). 

The company also gained a significant interest in Hunan Valin Steel (China) in 2005, as three Stelco Inc subsidiaries in Canada in 2006.

At the time of the merger with Mittal Steel, Arcelor was the second largest steel producer in the world.

Last year, ArcelorMittal’s global operations had revenues of US$63.6 billion and crude steel production of 92.5 million tonnes, while its own iron ore production reached 62.8 million tonnes.

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