MILAN ArcelorMittal (ISPA.AS), the world's largest steelmaker, is interested in buying part or all of Italian steelmaker Ilva from its holding family, daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Sunday.
Ilva runs Europe's biggest steel plant in the southern Italian city of Taranto, but has been at the center of a lengthy environmental scandal. Controlled by the Riva family, Ilva makes flat steel products used by carmakers, electrical appliance manufacturers and shipbuilders.
Buying into Ilva would give ArcelorMittal greater control over the price of steel in southern Europe.
ArcelorMittal would prefer to buy a part or all of Ilva directly from the Riva family. Should Riva refuse, ArcelorMittal may participate in a potential capital increase the group may pursue to pay for an environmental clean-up, the paper said, without naming its sources.
ArcelorMittal said the company would not comment on market speculation. Ilva, which accounts for around 40 percent of the Italy's output, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Italian government put Ilva under special administration last year.
It has embarked on a two-year clean-up operation after prosecutors alleged that toxic emissions at the Taranto plant had caused abnormally high levels of cancer and respiratory illness in the region. The group has repeatedly said the plant complied with environmental standards and denied its operations were responsible for any health problems.
According to the paper, Ilva's environmental clean up and subsequent new industrial plan would cost 3 billion euros to carry out, to be financed by loans for 2.3 billion euros and a capital increase for the remaining 700 million euros.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Silvia Antonioli in London, editing by Louise Heavens)