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France says four buyers looking at British Steel's French business

Wed 4th March, 2020 5:24pm
PARIS, March 4 (Reuters) - Four bidders have expressed
interest in buying British Steel's French business, France's
finance minister said on Wednesday after Chinese steelmaker
Jingye Group said it would buy its British and Dutch assets.
    Jingye said on Tuesday it would invest 1.2 billion pounds
($1.5 billion) to acquire British Steel's main plant in northern
England, but questions remain over the sale of its Hayange plant
in eastern France, which can be blocked by Paris.
    French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the plant, which
employs more than 400 people, was considered a strategic asset
as a supplier for railway company SNCF, and that a sale
therefore required government authorisation. 
    "My position is very simple: Hayange manufactures the SNCF's
rails, so it's a strategic activity," Le Maire told BFM Business
TV. "So I want to find another buyer since British Steel will be
taken over without Hayange."
    British Steel was placed into compulsory liquidation in May
after Greybull Capital, which bought it for a token one pound
from Tata Steel  TISC.NS  in 2016, failed to secure funding to
continue its operations.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2AW352 
    Le Maire did not name the bidders, but a union source told
Reuters that global number one steelmaker ArcelorMittal  MT.AS ,
Germany's Saarstahl, Olympus Steel and Britain's Liberty House,
were interested. However, a source close to the matter played
down Liberty House's interest. 
    Beyond the purely economic issue, the plant's future also
has a political dimension for the French government, less than
two weeks before the first round of mayoral elections.
    The town of Hayange, where the plant is located, is one of a
dozen municipalities in France controlled by Marine Le Pen's
far-right National Rally, formerly the National Front.
    Hayange's far-right mayor is running for re-election in the
March 15-22 mayoral elections. 

 (Reporting by Gwénaëlle Barzic and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris,
additional reporting by Clara Denina in London; writing by
Michel Rose; editing by Alexander Smith)
 ((michel.rose@thomsonreuters.com; +33149495071; Reuters
Messaging: Twitter: https://twitter.com/MichelReuters))
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