Monday, September 7, 2009

Cold Steel: The war..

Lots of action starring the French PM Chiraac, the royal Duchy, the Indian PM Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and the finance ministries of Luxembourg and France; The war rooms in London and the mystic castle where Arcelor is headquartered; And of course the respective CEO's Guy Dolle and Lakshmi Mittal. The comments by Dolle were in fact quite entertaining.

-"I present you the Arcelor board of directors. And my son is not on the board.." - a direct hit on Aditya Mittal and Mittal's problems with corporate governance where the family rules.

- Reference to Mittal's share offering to buy Arcelor shares as 'funny money'

I love action and this book was never short of it. The Zaoui brothers were an interesting find. Michael Zaoui- heading the M&A at Morgan Stanley is fighting for Arcelor while his brother Yoel Zaoui of Goldman Sachs is readying the Mittal camp for the attack.

The French are belittled in the book thanks to the government's statements such as 'Mittal must be stopped at all costs'. The French government- though devoid of any shares in Arcelor, calls itself a 'stakeholder' and claims it was angered that Mittal didn't let the French know before going hostile by making an offer directly to the shareholders.

Mittal is at his charismatic best with the ever smiling composed demeanor in the most trying times. A memorable incident was when Arcelor brought in Mordashov's SeverStal steel as the white knight to fend off Mittal. While the Mittal camp was in distress: Goldman and Societe Generale people included, Lakshmi Mittal innocently walks up and asks with a smile- "What is this word stoyc? People are saying I should not be stoyc. And I can't find this word in the dictionary." The lady: surprised and amused at the same time, replies "the word is 'stoic': refers to one who lets loss take a toll on him for a long time. And clearly Mr. Mittal you do not seem stoic at all!!"

However Mittal does unleash his fury when the time is right. The lashing the backstabbing Thyssen Krupp lead received was something he'd remember for quite some time. Mittal warned him: " I am bidding for Arcelor for consolidation of the industry for a better future for everyone. Stay out of the way now". This was after Thyssen Krupp wanted to act as a white Knight for Arcelor even though they already had a deal with the Mittals on the future of Dofasco.

The hostile bid made Mittal and Dolle live spy movies. The blue BMW following Mittal, information leaks at Arcelor and Dolle getting bodyguards are some instances straight out of the book. Plus the tapped phones and a chopper chase add a filmy touch. Some things have been left unsaid though. How did Mittal find out about the white knights? Was Mittal or the Indian government responsible for leaking the news of the Luxembourgian finance minister arrival in India so that the media could slaughter him? How did Sudhir Mahishwari get hold of Arcelor's attacking remarks before they were aired: helping Mittal to have an apt defense ready? All this still remains a mystery.

One of the grandest corporate battles ever fought? But.. But.. Too many names.. I can remember some 15 names after the read. Hats off if you manage a higher figure!!

Gives you a great insight of the steel industry and the hunger Mittals' possess. However, this book does not seem that majestic for the Mittals as of today. While in the end we see Mittal creating the biggest steel manufacturing entity, the truth today is something different.

True: Mittal is capable of outputting maximum tonnage in the world, but the slowdown has hit him really hard. Together with Arcelor, Mittal managed to create an entity for high grade steel. Geographically, he has conquered Europe, America while touching parts of Kazakhstan, Brazil, etc. But these times have hit the premium segment the hardest. Fact remains that Arcelor-Mittal does not have adequate presence in BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China). Hence, gobbling up Arcelor may not be considered the right time. With record losses and bureaucratic tape in eliminating workforce, situation looks grim for them today as well as in the near future.

My guess is that we'd have to wait for at least 5 years to find out if Arcelor was worth it. There have also been fears that Arcelor's image might have been pushed up just by Project Tiger (Yes! Arcelor had a team already in place to keep a track on Mittal even before he launched his bid) to make Arcelor look more spectacular than it actually was. As for today, it seems like Mittal's former strategy (of buying small sick plants and turning them around) would've kept him healthier. However, the stock price trend shows an optimistic view amongst shareholders. Lets wait n watch..

1 comment:

  1. Hello Friend,  Hope everything is fine.
    I am a researcher from psychology department. Interested in bloggers and their behavior. My  research topic is "Blogging Improves Self-Identity".  In connection with my research I need your help.  If you spare your email id , I will be sending  the research questionnaire's to your mail Id.   You can give your responses to the questionnaire. My mail Id is Kindly cooperate in this survey. Your response will be used only for research purpose.  To end with friendly note, I am always ready to help you if you have any queries or doubts related to psychology. Thank you.
    Doctoral Candidate
    Dept of Psychology
    Bharathiar University
    Coimbatore - 641046
    Tamil Nadu, India