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Steelmakers to meet Mittal in his lair

New Delhi, Sept. 10: Who is afraid of L.N. Mittal' Not us: that seems to be the chorus from a motley group of steelmakers who are accompanying steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan on a trip to Mittal’s recently acquired Arcelor plant in Luxembourg via London and Amsterdam.

Although a formal meeting with the world’s biggest steel tycoon is still not officially on the cards, sources said Paswan and the steelmakers may meet Mittal either in London where he keeps a palatial home or in Luxembourg, which is the headquarters of the new entity that has been established by merging Mittal Steel and Arcelor.

Mittal, who owns steel plants in 16 countries, has turned into a bugbear for most Indian steelmakers who are worried about the competition he might pose with his plans to set up huge steel mills in Jharkhand and Orissa. Nor are they happy with his attempt to grab a slice of SAIL-run Chiria mines, which are known to have Asia’s largest deposit of high grade iron ore.

“But then, they say, it is better to fight an enemy about whom you have some knowledge ... and then who knows yesterday’s foes may turn tomorrow’s partners,” said a steel ministry official who is part of the entourage. Officials said there is a strong chance that a meeting will happen, but “right now nothing has been fixed and we are not saying anything”.

The team is slated to spend half-a-day at the Arcelor plant but this may not be the venue for the meeting between the richest man in Europe and India’s steel minister and his crew of steelmakers.

Paswan is taking the steel delegation, which has SAIL chief S.K. Roongta, Vizag Steel chairman Sagar Rao, Tata Steel’s deputy managing director, T. Mukherjee, Essar Steel’s J.K. Mehra, among others, on the European tour at the invitation from Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker to visit the tiny principality. The grand tour, which began on Saturday, will see the steelmakers on a week-long sojourn in Europe. Officials say Luxembourg is hoping to sell steel-making technology to Indian steelmakers who are in an ambitious drive to expand their capacities. SAIL itself has chalked out an ambitious Rs 40,000-crore modernisation cum expansion programme which Paswan wants to see completed before the present government ends its term of office.

The delegation will meet the top brass of Paul Wurth, a Luxembourg-based steel technology giant, which is rated among the world leaders in design and supply of complete plants as well as specialised mechanical equipment for the ironmaking sector, including blast furnaces and auxiliary plants, coke making plants and direct reduction plants.

Paswan and his team will also meet Corus Steel chief and his team in London.

Corus was formed in October 1999 by merging British Steel with Koninklijke Hoogovens. It is now a £10-billion steel and aluminium products conglomerate which also specialises in providing design, technology and consultancy services to steelmakers around the globe.

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