|Mittal and wife Usha
London, July 1: His battle against Arcelor won, Lakshmi Mittal was the centre of attention when he turned up at a high-society Indian party in London last night.
He and his wife, Usha, attended the party given by construction magnate H.S. Narula and his wife, Surina.
It was probably the first party at which the 56-year-old Indian- born steel tycoon has been able to relax since his battle to take over Arcelor began in January this year.
Coverage of the struggle has had such ramifications globally for the steel industry that each day his staff prepared a summary of coverage from 50 key newspapers from all over the world.
Surina Narula said: “He always comes to our parties. What’s nice about him is he remains a humble man. At the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) conference in London earlier this week, where both Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal (ministers for commerce and industry and science and technology, respectively) were present, there was a standing ovation when Mittal walked in.”
At last night’s party, he was also greeted as an all-conquering hero. This is something he will have to get used to.
On the steel front, now that the combined Arcelor-Mittal entity ' this has cost him $32.54 billion ' will have a combined production capacity of 120 million tonnes annually, the question arises: what next for Lakshmi Mittal'
According to comments made by him to agencies after Arcelor shareholders had rejected the rival bid from Russia’s Severstal group, Mittal has set his sights on further acquisitions in emerging markets such as China and India.
“At this point, we will focus on China and India,” said the future president of Arcelor-Mittal.
Talking about his battle, he said: “We never expected it would be so difficult, with so many hurdles and obstacles.”
Mittal said negative (“Mittal Steel’s cologne vs Arcelor’s perfume”) comments made by Arcelor’s chief executive Guy Dolle never swayed him from pursuing his rivals.
“Personally, I never felt any of those feelings,” he said. “I always termed them emotional outbursts. I feel sad about it, but it did not change my determination.”
As staff in Mittal’s office sipped champagne in celebration of the victory, the biggest of its 50 takeovers, Mittal described the battle as a boxing match.
“There were many occasions where we felt that we lost on points. And there was one occasion when I felt I was in the 10th round and I had been knocked out,” he admitted, referring to Arcelor’s surprise move to acquire Severstal.
Mittal, whose company has proposed a $9-billion plant in Jharkhand, said his victory would hopefully spur other Indian businessmen to seek ambitious targets overseas.
“People have told me that Indian people are seeing it as India versus Arcelor, not Lakshmi Mittal versus Arcelor. I understood that if I succeeded, this would give lot of confidence to Indian businessmen to go abroad,” he said.
At last night’s party, Mittal told The Telegraph there were still “some issues” left in the merger between Mittal Steel and Arcelor but added: “The game’s over.”