Italy awards Ilva to ArcelorMittal-Marcegaglia combine

The minister of economic development has signed the decree that authorized the special commissioners to sell Ilva, Italy’s largest steel company, to AM Investco Italy, owned 85% by ArcelorMittal and 15% by Marcegaglia, the government stated late Monday.

AM Investco’s victory came after days of protests by trade unions that on Monday struck in Genoa, and on Thursday in Taranto, as the industrial plan foresees a sharp downsizing of the staff. However, the government statement said AM Investco has pledged to improve proposals to employ around 10,000 workers.

The statement said “an exclusive negotiation phase will be held between the special commissioners and the successful tenderer, with the possibility to improve the binding tender”.

In these negotiations the commissioners will aim, among other things, to increase the numbers to be employed, to establish a research center at the Taranto steelworks, and to identify and pursue the most sustainable and efficient technological solutions with the least environmental impact including the introduction of DRI.

According to the official government statement AM has expressed willingness to reduce the time for the realization of environmental investments at Taranto, to assess the economic sustainability of DRI ironmaking, and not to modify its plans in the event of any constraints imposed by anti-trust authorities.

The government’s decision came regardless the fact that over the weekend the rival joint venture Acciai Italia – involving JSW Steel and Delfin (the holding company of businessman Del Vecchio) – increased its bid to around €1.85 billion and, in order to have the unions on their side, added that it would “immediately” hire 9,800 employees. It also extended this offer to 30 September. An extension that could still play an important role in case of withdrawal of AM in case of antitrust problems, sources commented to Platts.

On Monday late afternoon before the decree went out, JSW and Delfin wrote another letter to the government saying that the offer of Acciai Italia was “the only one that would have allowed the closing of the operation and the award of the company in the quickest time” not only as the unions were keen to agree with their terms but also as “for sure they don’t have antitrust problems”. The JV asked also the attorney general for an opinion on antitrust matters.

In the meantime the government also managed to get back from Switzerland the so called “Riva treasury” – the €1.2 billion seized from Ilva’s former owners, the Riva family, which now will be used by Ilva to do the upgrades necessary to meet environmental standards.

Ilva was placed under court administration in 2013 after magistrates seized the assets belonging to the Riva family, amid allegations that toxic emissions were causing high rates of cancer. The government took over administration of the business in 2015 to try to save jobs and clean up the hot end of the integrated steelworks in Taranto. In 2016 the government put Ilva on sale via an international tender. AM Investco and Acciai Italia submitted binding offers to financial advisor Rothschild on March 6, in what became the most heated M&A bid of the year in the steel industry.

Annalisa Villa, Steel Business Briefing