ArcelorMittal considers sale of Canadian assets

Iron ore concentrate produced at the Mont-Wright mine in Quebec is transported by a 420-kilometer railroad with 20 bridges and five tunnels. (Image courtesy of ArcelorMittal Infrastructure Canada.)

ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, is evaluating the potential sale of its infrastructure assets in Canada, where it has the largest and most profitable iron ore operation, as it seeks to cut debt by divesting non-core businesses.

The facilities the company may put on the chopping block include a 420km-long railway servicing the 24 million tonnes-per-year Mont-Wright iron ore mine in Quebec, FT.com reports.

Selling either the entire ArcelorMittal Infrastructure Canada (AMIC) unit, or a stake in it, would help the Luxembourg-based firm achieve its target of reducing net debt to $7 billion from $9.5 billion currently.

Selling all or a stake in ArcelorMittal Infrastructure Canada (AMIC) would help the steelmaker achieve its target of reducing net debt to $7bn from $9.5bn

In 2013, ArcelorMittal sold a 15% stake in its Canadian mining business to a consortium led by Korea’s Posco for $1.1 billion.

The steelmaker is also said to be reviewing its other iron ore assets, located in Brazil and Liberia.

The company 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 a welcome addition to iron ore projects across the border in Guinea, such as Nimba, being developed by Canadian billionaire Robert Friedland. It could also be beneficial to mining veteran Mick Davis’ Zogota.

ArcelorMittal said last year it had the potential to “unlock” $2 billion from its portfolio by 2021, which analysts took as a sign of plans to sell non-core units. Last month it raised that very same figure through a sale of shares and convertible bonds. 

The steelmaker also has operations in the United States, Mexico, Bosnia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

European steelmakers 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 and strong demand from China.

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