ArcelorMittal hires Bank of America to sell European steel assets

FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on the roof of the ArcelorMittal steelworks headquarters in Ostrava, Czech Republic, April 1, 2016. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal has hired Bank of America-Merrill Lynch to sell a number of its steel assets to secure antitrust clearance to acquire Italian peer Ilva.

ArcelorMittal offered in March to sell its galvanized steel plant in Italy, as well as units in Romania, Macedonia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Belgium as a concession to EU regulators for its 1.8 billion euro (1.6 billion pounds) bid for Ilva.

ArcelorMittal told Reuters on Wednesday that it had appointed Bank of America-ML to handle the asset sale.

European and Asian steelmakers will be among the likely buyers as the European Commission has said the steel plants would be sold to buyers who would continue to operate them, allowing them to compete with ArcelorMittal.

The EU antitrust watchdog decided to clear Arcelor’s offer on Tuesday, after seeking feedback from rivals and customers on the concessions. Concerns were initially raised that the deal may reduce competition in some flat carbon steel products and result in higher prices for customers in southern Europe.

Global steel equity values have more than doubled since hitting 12-year lows in early 2016 at the depth of a steel sector crisis that resulted in job losses, bankruptcies and capacity closures worldwide.

The ArcelorMittal takeover of Ilva, Europe’s largest steel plant with 11 million tonnes capacity, is expected to improve the pricing power of EU steelmakers in the longer term by reducing the number of sellers in the market.

Steel majors Tata Steel and Thyssenkrupp agreed in 2017 to combine their European steel assets.

ArcelorMittal said it plans to invest a further 2.4 billion euros cleaning up and modernizing Ilva, which has been dogged by charges of corruption and environmental crime for years.

Reporting by Clara Denina; additional reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle