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Mittal still eyeing Indian steel sector

Notwithstanding the delays in ArcelorMittal's India projects, the steel baron has said he is still "determined to participate" in the country's steel industry.

twitter-logo PTI   London     Last Updated: October 11, 2010  | 16:42 IST

Notwithstanding the delays in ArcelorMittal's India projects, Lakshmi Mittal has said he is still "determined to participate" in the country's steel industry.

In an interview to the Financial Times in Tokyo, Mittal said his new strategy was to have a number of smaller steel-making hubs in different parts of the country, each capable of making a few million tonnes of steel a year.

"My plan is now to have two to four sites rather than concentrate everything on large plants," Mittal told the financial daily, adding he was still "determined to participate" in the country's steel industry, where demand for the metal is increasing quickly from new investments in industrial expansion and infrastructure development.

Mittal told FT that his plan of setting up two big steel sites, producing between them 24 million tonnes of steel a year by 2015, is highly "unlikely to be realised".

The steel baron's original scheme to spend about $20 billion on two large steel plants in Jharkand and Orissa was put on hold last year after difficulties in persuading farmers to sell their land for the projects.

In 2005, Mittal had signed a pact with Orissa government for a 12 million tonnes per annum steel plant and shortly after announced plans for an identical project in Jharkhand.

Eventually, Mittal played the China card, asking the country to relax its investment rules.

"You cannot expect business people in the US to be relaxed (about planned inward investments by Chinese companies) if their attempts to do the same thing in China are covered by restrictions," Mittal told FT.

The statement was on the heels of a row in the US over a planned participation by Anshan Iron & Steel, one of China's biggest steelmakers, in a $168-million venture to build a steel plant in Mississippi by John Correnti, a veteran US steel executive.

Mittal's own efforts to expand in China have been hampered by Beijing's inward investment rules. So far, he has been allowed only to take minority stakes in two medium-sized China-based steel producers, rather than take control of large ventures, as he would have liked, the report said.

The Chinese government has refused to allow non-Chinese companies to take majority stakes in business fields that Beijing regards as "strategic" to the country's long-term interests, one of which is the steel industry.

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