World Bulletin / News Desk
The French government aims to pass a law before the end of the year that would force companies intent on closing down industrial plants to sell them to alternative operators, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Friday.
The push comes as the Socialist government is battling to prevent the permanent closure of two idled blast furnaces at a steel mill in northeastern France that symbolise an industrial decline President Francois Hollande has promised to tackle.
The law would set out a legal framework to force companies such as ArcelorMittal to hand over plants they want to leave idle, with buyers paying a price set by the courts, Montebourg said.
"The work is under way. A law on takeovers for industrial sites will be voted (on) before the end of the year. It will take less than three months," Montebourg told BFM TV.
Montebourg is on the front line of the government's fight to prevent steelmaker ArcelorMittal from closing two furnaces at its mill in Florange. The furnaces have been shuttered for 14 months because of a glut of capacity in the market.
Hollande, who pledged during his May election campaign to revive French industry, is now grappling with a wave of layoffs and has told ArcelorMittal that he wants the furnaces restarted with a 150 million euro ($192.92 million) investment or sold.
The government is already seeking a possible buyer, but without a new law its threat cannot be enforced.
The two furnaces, where iron is extracted from ore for use in steel production, employ about 550 of the 2,800 workers at the Florange plant, the rest of which is operational.
Montebourg visited the site on Thursday and told jeering workers that the government was in a "tug-of-war" over the site, the last survivor in the once-bustling northeastern steel region after ArcelorMittal's nearby Gandrange mill was wound down.
Demand for steel from Florange has dropped as struggling French car makers rein in production because of flagging sales.
ArcelorMittal Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal held talks with Hollande on Thursday over the closure plan and company officials are due to meet unions on Monday.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Eylül 2012, 17:45