* Facility closure to affect 1,300 workers
* Five retained lines to keep on 800 workers in Liege
* European steel demand down 8-9 pct in 2012
(Adds Belgian PM, Socialist leader, further details)
BRUSSELS, Jan 24 ArcelorMittal, the
world's largest steel producer, plans to shut facilities at its
site in Liege, Belgium, with the likely loss of around 1,300
jobs, due to a weakening of demand for steel in Europe.
The company said in a statement on Thursday it had decided
to close permanently the coke mill and six finishing lines at
the site after European demand for steel dropped 8-9 percent
ArcelorMittal said in the first nine months of 2012, its
Liege facility had made an operating loss of 200 million euros
($265.62 million), with no improvement seen.
Thursday's decision comes on top of the closure of two blast
furnaces at Liege, announced in October 2011. The plant had
employed 2,700 workers.
It is a further blow for Belgium after last October's
announcement that Ford Motor Co would close its car plant in
Genk, some 40 km (25 miles) north of Liege, by the end of 2014.
Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said he had cancelled
his planned trip to the EU-Latin America summit starting on
Friday and would instead meet local government chiefs.
"I support the workers. It is my first message this
afternoon during my meeting with (ArcelorMittal CEO) Lakshmi
Mittal," Di Rupo tweeted from the World Economic Forum in Davos.
ArcelorMittal said it had offered to keep the six lines
operating at between zero and 100 percent depending on market
demand, but that unions had rejected this.
Union leaders said the company had failed to uphold a
promise to keep the 'cold' operations such as steel rolling in
Liege. In the 'hot' blast furnace stage iron ore is converted
"After the close of the hot phase in 2011, we sensed the
cold phase could not last. They provided guarantees, but it was
a complete lie," said Fabrice Jacquemart of FGTB Metal.
Paul Magnette, head of the French-speaking Socialists and a
former minister, denounced ArcelorMittal's decision as
Five specialised lines producing high quality product would
be retained, with about 800 people kept on.
Liege in eastern Belgium was one of Europe's major iron and
steel cities in the 19th century, and has been home to gunsmiths
for centuries. More recently, some high tech firms have set up
there. It is also the home of the sugar-coated Belgian waffle.
ArcelorMittal, struggling with European steel demand 29
percent below pre-crisis levels, also planned to shut two idled
blast furnaces in Florange, France.
After a stand-off with the French government, the company
agreed to invest 180 million euros in Florange and promised
there would be no forced layoffs.
Last month ArcelorMittal said it would write down the value
of its European business by $4.3 billion, or 87 percent, and
earlier this month raised $4 billion in shares and convertibles
to cut debt after losing its investment grade status.
The $500-billion-a-year steel industry, a gauge of the
global economy, has slowed sharply this year as a moderation in
China's economic growth has compounded weak demand from
Lakshmi Mittal has said he expects global steel demand to
grow by between 2 and 3 percent this year, but sees European
demand broadly flat.
($1 = 0.7530 euros)
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Philip Blenkinsop;
editing by James Jukwey)