To say the dealings between bidder Mittal Steel
A bit of background: Mittal Steel wants to buy Arcelor and create the world's largest steel company, combining Mittal's generally lower-value products with Arcelor's higher-value products. Arcelor management, at least initially, reacted to the bid with about as much enthusiasm as a Novocain-free root canal and purportedly deemed Mittal's offer to be "monkey money."
Since then, Arcelor has tried every trick in the book. It's played the nationalism card, it's played the antitrust card, it's cast aspersions on the board and management at Mittal (sort of funny, considering the source), it's claimed the deal was too low, and it's sought out a merger with Russia's Severstal to avoid the deal.
The Severstal deal is really the sticking point now. Arcelor is essentially looking to acquire Severstal in an equity deal and is using the implied value to "prove" that Mittal's deal is too low. In other words, self-minted play-money is being used against a real offer. What's worse, though, is Severstal itself. I haven't found a single person in the steel business who'll tell me that Severstal is even good, let alone better than Mittal. But if you're Arcelor management, you get to stay in charge.
Supposedly, Mittal is once again thinking of raising its offer. As a Mittal shareholder, I have some misgivings about that idea. After all, there comes a time and place to just cut off talks and go out to find a new target. Arcelor isn't the only steel company left in the world, after all. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that a much larger offer from Mittal might be nothing more than an exchange of value from shareholders like me to the shareholders of Arcelor.
One way or another, though, this deal will have significant repercussions. Whether Arcelor goes with Severstal or Mittal, there will be a new giant in the field, and that will make a difference in pricing and production levels. It's also possible that the deal will finally coax European investors into a bit more activism and force better management accountability.
If there's any positive, it's that Mittal still looks like something of a bargain -- provided it hasn't decided to pay any price for Arcelor. Of course, spread your research around and consider other companies, such as Nucor
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Philip Durell also likes Mittal Steel and recommended it for our Motley Fool Inside Value subscribers. You can see why -- and learn which other companies have made the cut -- by taking a free, 30-day trial today.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of Mittal but has no financial interest in any other stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).