France’s irrepressible Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg upped the ante a little further in the government’s battle of wills with Lakshmi Mittal, chairman of the steel giant ArcelorMittal, announcing that the state had decided to nationalise the company’s plant in Florange, north-eastern France if Mr. Mittal refuses to back down.

“The government has decided to nationalise the entire Florange site if Mr. Mittal refuses to put the entire plant up for sale or re-start the blast furnaces shut down over a year ago,” Mr. Montebourg told trade union representatives who met him in his Paris office.

Mr. Montebourg, who is something of a loud mouth and a loose canon within the government, thus hopes to increase the pressure on President Francois Hollande, who, after a tense meeting with Mr. Mittal on Tuesday, indicated that negotiations would continue until Saturday.

Walter Broccoli and Philippe Verbeke, who represented the FO and CGT union at the meeting with Mr, Montebourg, confirmed that the minister had said the decision to nationalise as of Saturday, if Mr. Mittal refused to cede ground, had been taken.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Montebourg said the government had found a buyer for the entire plant, who was willing to put €400 million of his own. “We have found a buyer who is an industrialist, a steel man, not a financier and will renovate the plant.” In the meanwhile, the government is waiting for Mr. Mittal’s proposals, he said.

Union leaders imme-diately began celebrating. “Of course, we have popped champagne bottles. This is a cause to celebrate,” Mr. Broccoli told The Hindu.

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