Son persuaded Mittal for sub-51% stake

Written by Agencies | London, April 30: | Updated: Apr 30 2008, 22:01pm hrs
It is Aditya Mittal, son of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and CFO of ArcelorMittal, who persuaded his father to accept a shareholding of below 51 per cent in the company post its takeover of European giant Arcelor.

Besides, unlike his father's way of running business in as private a way as possible, Aditya believed that public companies with a certain amount of scrutiny from the outside world are more sustainable in the long run, The Financial Times said in a report based on an interview with Aditya.

In the past, Lakshmi Mittal had always based his M&A policies on gaining stakes of more than 51 per cent in the companies in which he has an interest, it noted.

According to the report, Lakshmi Mittal, in the battle to acquire Arcelor, was initially reluctant to let go his stake in the merged business fall below 51 per cent.

"It was Aditya who did more than anyone to persuade his father to accept a 45 per cent shareholding in the newly formed ArcelorMittal, as part of the effort to win over international investors by giving them more sizable slice of the enlarged company," it said.

Before Arcelor takeover, Mittal family held an 88 per cent stake in Mittal Steel. Aditya, who visited a steel plant first at the age of eight, joined his father in early 1997, after working for less than a year as an investment banker at CSFB.

"Since then, Aditya has been a formidable influence, sometimes pushing his father towards more radical strategies than those favoured by the elder Mittal," the report said.

"In the early days, being my father's son was a double- edged sword. Of course, it gave me the unique opportunity to join a company with fantastic growth prospects that would eventually become the biggest in its sector. "But (the family relationship) also triggered a set of expectations different to what others in my position would have encountered. I had to demonstrate to everyone that I could do the job (of being a senior executive in Lakshmi Mittal's company) because of who I am, not because of my last name," Aditya told The Financial Times.

The report noted that 32-year-old Aditya, like his father, is keen to show that the company is committed to the entrepreneurial edge that has been a driver of the group's expansion since the 1970s when Lakshmi evolved it from a small steelmaking operation in Indonesia.

"In the past, Lakshmi's instincts have pushed him in the direction of running his companies in as private a way as possible, with most of the decision-making shielded from the public gaze. Aditya, however, seems to be more firmly wedded to the idea that public companies with a certain amount of scrutiny from the outside world are more sustainable in the long run," the report said.

It quoted Aditya as saying further that growth in China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies was likely to take most of the strain for the steel industry from any slowdown in the US.

"The world now as two billion people who are going through a new stage of industrialisation, when in the past it was no more than about 200 million at a time. In the next six to nine months we are bound to see a few tremors from the global slowdown affecting steel. But I think the overall impact will be limited," the ArcelorMittal CFO said.