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CCI purchase of ArcelorMittal looks to be positive move

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., already among the larger players in the iron ore and steel-producing businesses, is getting bigger.

It recently was announced that the company, which owns and controls the active Tilden Mine in National Mine and idled Empire Mine in Palmer, plus other iron ore and steel-production assets, will acquire substantially all of ArcelorMittal USA, LLC operations.

Cleveland-Cliffs will acquire the firm on a cash-free, debt-free basis using a combination of 78.2 million shares of Cliffs common stock, nonvoting preferred stock with an approximate aggregate value of $373 million, and $505 million in cash, a recent Mining Journal story on the issue detailed.

The total enterprise value of the transaction is approximately $3.3 billion, taking into consideration Cliffs’ assumption of the ArcelorMittals’ pension and other post-employment benefit liabilities and working capital, the Journal story states.

After all is said and done, Cliffs will be the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America. The company also will be the largest iron ore pellet producer in North America.

“Steel-making is a business where production volume, operational diversification, dilution of fixed costs and technical expertise matter above all else, and this transaction achieves all of these. ArcelorMittal is a world-class organization that we have long admired as our customer and our partner, and we know for a fact that they have taken good care of their U.S. assets,” Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves said in the Journal story.

Along with ArcelorMittal’s 870-acre hot-rolled and hot-dipped galvanized steel plant in Cleveland, Cliffs would acquire five other steel-making facilities in three other states, including plants in Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor, Indiana; Coatesville and Steelton, Pennsylvania; as well as a plant in Riverdale, Illinois.

Of course, everyone connected to the Marquette Iron Range immediately wants to know what this transaction, assuming each firm’s board of control approves it, will mean to local operations and job levels. Since neither firm has addressed this specific issue, it’s hard to say for certain.

But knowing what we know about the iron ore and steel business, we doubt that it will have much impact — the general health of CCI aside.

Making Cliffs a more sustainable operation, which this will do, is a good thing locally, even if it doesn’t lead to reopening the Empire Mine.

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