Business and Industry

French Nationalization Threat Puts Government on the Defensive

Almost nobody thinks the threat is credible or wise

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France's threat to nationalize a steel mill to prevent job losses is shaping up as a public relations disaster for the government—with potential collateral damage to the European steel industry as well.

President François Hollande's Socialist government says it may take temporary control of the Hayange-Florange plant in Lorraine to prevent its owner, ArcelorMittal (MT), from eliminating about 630 of 2,700 jobs at the site. Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg told Parliament on Nov. 28 that the government had already found a potential buyer for the facility, which ArcelorMittal does not want to sell. The transaction would involve "a temporary nationalization" and resale, Montebourg said.