Kazakhstan announced on Friday that it had bought the local subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, the epilogue of negotiations carried out after a series of accidents in the steel giant's Kazakh mines, the last of which killed 46 miners at the end of October. “The Kazakh government and ArcelorMittal have reached an agreement to transfer the ArcelorMittal Temirtau company to Kazakhstan,” the government of Central Asia’s largest economy said in a statement. The amount of the buyout by the Kazakh public fund “Qazaqstan Investment Corporation” amounts to “286 million dollars”, while ArcelorMittal had requested 3.5 billion dollars, according to the government.
At the end of October, the country's worst mining accident since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 claimed the lives of 46 workers at the Kostenko mine in Karaganda (center), adding to a long list of tragedies already occurring on the ArcelorMittal Kazakh sites. At a press conference, Kazakh Minister of Industry and Construction Kanat Sharlapayev said the sum of $286 million corresponded to the “assets of the entire coal and steel complex of 'ArcelorMittal Temirtau' (center of the country) as well as the 'tube production plant for the Kazakh hydrocarbon industry in Aktau' (west) belonging to the steel giant.
Under the terms of the agreement announced Friday, the new investor, Kazakh businessman Andrei Lavrentiev according to local media, will have to “repay parent company ArcelorMittal a short-term loan of $250 million as well as "a long-term loan of $450 million within four years." In addition, he will have to provide “3.5 billion dollars over three years” to notably improve the security of the sites and the company will be renamed.
The Minister of Industry described this takeover as a “mega-agreement of exceptional importance for Kazakhstan”, ensuring that the most important thing was to “safeguard the 32,000 jobs and preserve steel production” in this country. “ArcelorMittal has no claims against Kazakhstan,” said Mr. Charlapaïev, adding that the group “undertook in writing not to take legal action against Kazakhstan.” In the wake of the tragedy in Karaganda at the end of October, President Kassym-Jomart Tokaïev ordered to “end cooperation” with the group and described ArcelorMittal as “the worst company in the history of Kazakhstan from the point of view of cooperation with the government. The Kazakh government and ArcelorMittal, led by Indian businessman Lakshmi Mittal and based in Luxembourg, then announced a preliminary agreement to “transfer ownership of the company in favor of the Republic of Kazakhstan”.
After the accident, ArcelorMittal's stock fell on the European stock exchanges. The group's arrival in Kazakhstan in 1995 initially brought hope in the socio-economic slump following the fall of communism. But the lack of investment and insufficient safety standards were subsequently repeatedly criticized by authorities, while unions regularly called for tighter government control. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, around 200 miners have lost their lives in Kazakhstan, the vast majority at ArcelorMittal sites. This is despite ArcelorMittal claiming to have “made numerous efforts to strengthen security”. .