July 24, 2018 / 9:15 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-ArcelorMittal offers new commitments for Ilva, Italy govt cautious

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ROME, July 24 (Reuters) - Steel giant ArcelorMittal said on Tuesday it had accepted new conditions set by Italian authorities for the purchase of troubled steelmaker Ilva, but the first reaction from the government was cautious.

ArcelorMittal agreed last year to buy Ilva and was due to take over the business on July 1, but the newly installed government delayed the handover and has pressed the Luxembourg-based giant to come up with a much better plan for the firm.

In an apparent bid to overcome political resistance to the deal, ArcelorMittal said in a statement it had informed Italian authorities that "it accepts all requests of further commitments" for its plan to purchase the plant in southern Italy.

ArcelorMittal committed to accelerate investments to improve the environmental performance of Ilva's main plant in Taranto, the largest in Europe, an official close to the talks told Reuters.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said the government will review the new commitments but stressed it was still assessing whether the bidding process for the sale of Ilva was carried out in full respect of the rules.

Ilva has been under state-supervised special administration since 2015, after magistrates said it must be cleaned up or closed.

Last week, Di Maio said he would seek a government investigation into the deal. His anti-establishment 5-Star Movement had promised ahead of the March national election that if it took power it would shut down Ilva over environmental concerns.

Under the takeover plan, ArcelorMittal plans to invest 4.2 billion euros in Ilva, including 1.15 billion to curb pollution, and reduce the workforce in the Taranto plant to around 7,600 from 10,900 now.

Unions have so far rejected the offer.

"ArcelorMittal is confident that with the backing of the government it will now be possible to finalise an agreement with unions in the coming days," the statement said. (Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio, Francesco Guarascio and Alberto Sisto; editing by Philip Pullella)

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