27 October 2004

Mittal forms world's largest steel firm

By Fionnán Sheahan, Political Correspondent
Irish Examiner 27/10/04

THE last owners of Irish Steel, who have refused to pay the clean-up costs of their former Irish site, are set to form the world's largest steel company in a €14 billion deal.Lakshmi Mittal, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, and the former owner of the Ispat International site at Haulbowline, Co Cork, will merge his family's steel assets and buy the US based International Steel Group Inc.

The €14bn deal will create the world's biggest steel company, with operations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. Analysts say the enlarged group will be worth €16.5bn. Mr Mittal's company is refusing to accept any responsibility for the constantly escalating costs of the €30 million clean-up of waste at the former Irish Ispat site in Cork Harbour.

Irish Steel closed in June 2001 with the loss of 450 jobs, after Ispat International bought the plant from the State for just £1 in the mid-'90s.

Ranked as Britain's fifth-richest man in 'The Sunday Times Rich List', Mr Mittal's personal fortune is believed to be in the region of €5bn.

According to Green Party TD Dan Boyle, Ispat and Mr Mittal have been allowed by the Government to walk away from their obligations at Haulbowline. "He seems to be largely in the clear. There is still a kid gloves approach there from the Government's side. I think on many levels there was room for a case to be taken," Mr Boyle said.

The clean-up operation has started and involves the removal of 80,000 tonnes of toxic material and a million tonnes of non-hazardous sludge. The €30m cost could yet turn out to be a conservative estimate.

"I would have thought that European competition laws at least would allow for a challenge. The company's market position was arguably subsidised by the Irish taxpayer and the British taxpayer," Mr Boyle said.

Netherlands-based Ispat International, 77% of which is owned by Mr Mittal, will buy the Mittal family's LNM Holdings to form a new company called Mittal Steel Co. The new Mittal Steel Co will then pay about €3.5bn to the shareholders of the Ohio-based International Steel Group. Mittal Steel will have operations in 14 countries, employ 165,000 people and have up to $1bn in capital expenditure this year.

"The combined Mittal Steel will be the largest and most global steel company in the world and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Euro-next Amsterdam," Mr Mittal said yesterday.


31 July 2004

Taxpayer to foot €30m bill for clean-up of steel works site

By Dan Collins
Irish Examiner 31/7/04

THE former owner of Irish Ispat in Cork, who recently bought a house in London for £106 million, should pick up the €30m tab for the clean up of the steel works site, according to the former chairman of Cork County Council.Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, who is remembered for leaving 450 workers high and dry when he closed the plant in June 2001, should not get away free from obligation, Labour's Cllr John Mulvihill said yesterday.

A bid by the State to have the liquidator of Irish Ispat, formerly Irish Steel, meet the estimated costs of making the Haulbowline Island site environmentally safe were dismissed by the High Court yesterday.

Ms Justice Carroll granted an application by the liquidator, Ray Jackson, to be allowed disclaim an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licence requiring a number of environmental safety conditions to be observed at the Haulbowline site.

The cost of cleaning up the site, where hazardous radioactive waste and toxic scrap materials are dumped, will be funded by the Irish taxpayer "unless Mittal is somehow held responsible", said Cllr Mulvihill, who lives near the old plant.

Referring to one of Britain's wealthiest residents, who recently spent €50m on his daughter's wedding bash, Cllr Mulvihill said: "He took over Irish Steel, asset stripped the place, laid off 450 workers and paid minimum redundancy. He also left an environmental mess behind which the Irish taxpayer is expected to pay for. This is absolutely crazy."

Cllr Mulvihill has requested a full report on the matter be brought before next September's meeting of Cork County Council.

In related proceedings brought by the State against Irish Ispat, the judge dismissed the State's proceedings. She adjourned her decision on costs.