Mittal likely to be in India during Chirac's visit

Mittal likely to be in India during Chirac's visit
New Delhi, Feb 14 (PTI) NRI steel tycoon L N Mittal, facing stiff resistance against his bid to take over Luxemborg based steel plant Arcelor, is likely to be in India during the visit of French President Jacque Chirac here next week in a bid to persuade India take up the issue with him.

Against the background of Commerce Minister Kamal Nath's supportive comments, official reaction today appeared subdued about the NRI's bold venture while a visiting top EU trade official said nationality in such issues was not relevant and decision should be taken on merit.

The Netherland-based Mittal Steel has made a 22.3 billion dollar bid for Arcelor, which would create a steel company with an output three times bigger than its three nearest rivals combined.

The company sources, however, said Mittal was yet to finalise his tour plans to India. But there are indications that the Mittal issue is likely to figure during the discussions Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have with President Chirac.

The bid has sparked objections from the governments of France, Luxembourg and Spain and from labour unions, who are worried about job losses even though Mittal has assured that no worker would lose job and cited all his operations in various countries had not resulted in retrenchment.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for External Affairs, Anand Sharma said "India's policy is that of the country and is not linked to any one incident. Any policy of the country has to be "comprehensive".

Sharma said this was purely a business issue and those who believe in free trade and investment should respect that. "This is all we have to say. This is not a broder national policy that comes into picture. G K Pillai, Additional Secretary Commerce Ministry, said ministers have made comments and "it is not for the government to take a decision".

Soon after the controversy broke, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath had warned European governments against racist reactions to Mittal Steel's takeover bid for Arcelor. He had said the government was concerned about it.

The visiting European Commission Director General - Trade, David O'Sullivan said "The EU is of a clear view that nationality in such cases is not relevant and it should be decided according to the laws in place and commercial merits".

"It is unfortunate that allegations of racial discrimination have crept in the issue," he added.

However, he made it clear the EU would be concerned if there were any violations of competition rules and the takeover created a monopoly kind of situation.

Sources said Mittal was likely to be in Delhi early next week for attending the marriage of noted New York-based NRI hotelier Vikram Chatwal and dismissed reports that he would be in India for lobbying with the government.

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