A takeover of Arcelor would take Mr. Mittal a long way toward realizing his vision of a dominant global steelmaker in an industry for decades characterized, and brought low, by fragmentation. To pull it off, Mr. Mittal needs to break an Old World taboo against takeovers, hostile or otherwise, involving a company dear to Continental protectionists’ heart. That this task falls to a man born in Rajasthan, and raised in Calcutta, is one of the more delicious gifts of globalization.
Alas, the sentiment isn’t quite universal. Despite swashbuckling his way through the developing world and transforming almost overnight one of the oldest, stodgiest industries in the world, 3rd Way advocates appear tougher to tame. They hit back with words which will strike some SM’ers as rather racially-tinged –
Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president, warned against giving into economic “laws of the jungle.” A former French finance minister referred to Mr. Mittal as “an Indian predator,” although his company is traded and based in Europe and he hasn’t lived in India for 30 years. Mr. DollÃ©, the Arcelor boss, said Rotterdam-based Mittal Steel is a “company full of Indians” that wants to buy his with “monnaie de singe.” The expression means “monopoly money”–Mittal’s offer is mostly shares–but the literal translation is “monkey money.” That double-entendre wasn’t lost on people.
Uncle Milt in a recent interview, pointed out that one of the great beauties of capitalism vs. politics was the way the former transcends race and creed -
The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically. Government intervention can’t do that. Politics exacerbates and magnifies differences.
Mr. Mittal – in response to a gentle, racially tinged prodding of a different sort seems to agree –
When I suggest the nice tycoon image might be the “Indian way,” he scoffs, saying, “There is nothing Indian here, there is nothing European here, you have to run a multinational company in a proper fashion with top professionals.”
Like Manish, I have a hard time reading about Mittal without seeing the Randian parallels and now, in Mr. d’Estaing’s complaints, we hear a different voice echoed – this time John Galt criticizing the interventionist politicians of d’Estaing’s ilk. This breed sees fit to pass judgment on men who triumph in –
arts you have never seen, over sciences you have never studied, over achievements of which you have no knowledge, over the gigantic industries where you, by your own definition of your capacity, would be unable successfully to fill the job of assistant greaser. [Atlas Shrugged pg 974]
Regardless of the French president’s feelings towards Mittal, it’s probably safe to say that Mr. d’Estaing’s rhetoric has likely done far less than Mr. Mittal’s actions to provide the French consumer with a cheap, reliable source of steel.
[most recent SM Mittal post - here]