Mittal steels itself for three bids worth $1.5bn

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The Independent Online

Mittal Steel, the group created by London-based billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, is preparing to spend around $1.5bn (£800m) on three acquisitions in Eastern Europe and Turkey.

Mittal Steel, the group created by London-based billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, is preparing to spend around $1.5bn (£800m) on three acquisitions in Eastern Europe and Turkey.

These come on top of the $314m it spent taking a 37 per cent stake in Chinese manufacturer, Hunan Valin Iron & Steel, in a deal unveiled on Friday.

Mittal plans to bid around $1bn for a 49 per cent stake in Eregli Demir ve Celik Fabrikalari (Erdemir), which is being sold by the Turkish government. It faces tough competition from Arcelor, the Luxembourg-based group that Mittal recently overtook as the world's leading steel maker, and US Steel of America.

Erdemir is the world's 13th- largest steel maker and is listed on the Istanbul stock exchange. Whoever buys the state's stake is expected to take over management of the group. A preferred bidder is due to be announced within weeks.

Mittal is also putting in an offer for Vitkovice Steel, the Czech producer put up for sale by the state on Thursday. Again, Arcelor and US Steel are the main rivals. Mittal is already the largest steel maker in the Czech Republic, though the international nature of the business means there are likely to be few anti-trust problems. Analysts expect it to be valued at more than $200m.

Mittal will also learn in the next few weeks if it has won the auction for Polish steel group Huta Czestochowa, which is on sale with a price tag of around $300m. Its main rival is Donbass, a Ukrainian steel business controlled by Rinat Akhmetov, the oligarch who owns the Shakhtar Donetsk football team. Mr Akhmentov was a strong supporter of Leonid Kuchma, the outgoing Ukrainian president whose protégé lost to the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko when the November election was rerun due to fraud.

Mr Yushchenko has vowed to reduce the influence of oligarchs in the former Soviet state.

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