French president to meet Mittal over plant closures

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French president to meet Mittal over plant closures

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France’s President Francois Hollande is set to meet Lakshmi Mittal in a bid to end an intensifying row over the fate of two idle steel furnances.

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker has said it will shut down two of its sites in France next week unless the government can find a buyer to operate them.

Tensions escalated further on Monday when France’s Industry Minister said the company was no longer wanted in the country because of years of broken promises.

But today he softened his stance: “The methods of Mittal group are unacceptable, these are the same methods they’ve used in Luxembourg, Belgium and France. But of course the industrial presence of Mittal is not in question in France” he said.

The firm employs some 20,000 people across more than 100 industrial sites. Failure to save jobs at Florange, the former heart of France’s steel making country, would add to a list of industrial shutdowns.

Sources close to the Indian-born billionaire owner say he was “deeply shocked” by Montebourg’s comments on Monday, describing them as “violent declarations.”

With October’s jobless figures expected to show another rise, the fate of tonight’s talks has become a crucial test of Francois Hollande’s promise to reverse France’s fortunes.