France govt, ArcelorMittal aiming to clinch deal

The French government and steelmaker ArcelorMittal are aiming to clinch a deal to save jobs and avoid a temporary nationalisation of the company's Florange steelworks, government sources said on Friday as a midnight deadline neared.

The talks came as the Italian Cabinet was meeting to approve a rescue plan for ILVA, Europe's largest steel plant with 20,000 workers, which is threatened with closure after an alleged environmental disaster. The European steel industry is struggling with overcapacity at a time of recession in the euro area and cheap competition in emerging markets.

ArcelorMittal says the Florange site's two furnaces are not viable but socialist president Francois Hollande wants them kept open and has threatened a state takeover for the site in northeastern France if no private buyer is found.

Sources close to the negotiations said talks could stretch beyond the deadline set for an accord by ArcelorMittal.

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