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ArcelorMittal to review Canada, Brazil iron assets

The company is seeking to cut debt by divesting non-core businesses.
ArcelorMittal's Canadian business is its largest and most profitable of the three that it is putting up for sale. Image:Vincent Mundy, Bloomberg

ArcelorMittal is evaluating a potential sale of some of its iron ore operations, as the world’s biggest steelmaker seeks to cut debt by divesting non-core businesses, people familiar with the matter said.

The company is reviewing its iron ore assets in Canada, Brazil and Liberia, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. ArcelorMittal is speaking with financial advisors about options including selling partial or full stakes in at least some of the assets, according to the people. The Canadian business is the largest and more profitable of the three and could be valued at about $2 billion in any transaction, the people said.

ArcelorMittal hasn’t kicked off a formal sale process, and it could decide to keep the operations, the people said. A representative for ArcelorMittal declined to comment.

The shares climbed 2.1% to 12.94 euros as of 9:52 am in Amsterdam.

European producers have been hit by a slump in demand from the auto industry and competition from cheap imports. That’s also making it hard for them to pass on to customers higher prices for iron ore, a key steelmaking ingredient, that are being stoked by mine closures in Brazil.

Divestment plans

ArcelorMittal said in August that it has the potential to “unlock” $2 billion from its portfolio in the next two years, signalling plans to sell non-core units. It is exploring a sale of a downstream construction business as it divests peripheral operations, people familiar with the matter said this month.

The company is one of the world’s largest iron ore producers, with operations in countries including the US, Mexico, Bosnia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, according to its website. In 2013, the company sold a 15% stake in its Canadian mining business to a consortium led by Posco for $1.1 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

ArcelorMittal’s mines and strategic contracts produced 58.5 million metric of iron ore last year. Its iron ore and metallurgical coal mining operations accounted for about 35% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation in the quarter ended June 30, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The company’s Canadian business produces more than 26 million tons of iron ore concentrate a year, according to its website. It has annual iron ore production capacity of 7.1 million tons in Brazil.

ArcelorMittal has struggled for years with its Nimba iron ore operation in Liberia, halting an expansion plan after Ebola devastated the West African country in 2014. It also owns rail and port infrastructure around the mine, which could also be useful for iron ore projects across the border in Guinea being developed by groups backed by billionaire investor Robert Friedland and serial mining dealmaker Mick Davis.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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