Italy takes full control of troubled Ilva steel plant

mercoledì 21 gennaio 2015 16:58

By Massimiliano Di Giorgio and Maytaal Angel

LONDON Jan 21 (Reuters) - Italy's government has taken full control of the troubled Ilva steel plant, Europe's biggest by output capacity, following a request the company said it submitted on Wednesday.

Industry Minister Federica Guidi signed documents on Wednesday for Ilva - a major employer in southern Italy - to be placed under extraordinary administration, a top level source told Reuters.

The company has been run by a government-appointed commissioner since 2013, when it was accused of failing to contain toxic emissions at its main plant in Taranto, southern Italy.

Last year, ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker, submitted a non-binding offer with Italian steel processor Marcegaglia for Ilva, as did Italian steel producer Arvedi.

It was not immediately clear where the three companies stood regarding their offers for the plant, though the government said in December it was hoping to sell Ilva within two to three years.

The plant is losing tens of millions of euros a month, threatening the jobs of some 16,000 employees and posing a headache for a government that is battling to pull the country out of its third recession in six years.

The Italian steel sector is Europe's second-largest after Germany's but is deeply troubled, having been hit by a 20-25 percent fall in demand for steel in Europe following the 2008 financial crisis.

Ilva's Taranto site has a capacity of more than 11 million tonnes of steel, but has been producing at well below that since 2013. (Reporting by Maytaal Angel, editing by John Stonestreet)