February 18, 2011 4 Comments
‘Cold Steel’ is a mesmerising read.It is a narration of the takeover battle waged by Lakshmi Narayan Mittal against the management of Arcelor to emerge as the Emperor of Steel.
In 2006, the two largest steel-producers in the world-Arcelor and Mittal Steel, are in the middle of a bitter battle for total market domination
At first Lakshmi Mittal proposes a friendly merger with rival Arcelor, a pan-European company whose interested parties include the governments of Spain, Luxembourg and Belgium.
Arcelor’s mercurial CEO, Frenchman Guy Dollé, firmly refuses,using intemperate language.To quote,“The answer is clearly no…There are two categories of steel. There is premium-quality steel and there is commodity steel. It’s like, there’s perfume, that Arcelor specialises in, and then there’s a sort of eau de cologne which is Mittal’s domain… a lot more technology and grey matter goes into each tonne we sell.” ….. “Part of Mittal’s offer consists, if you’ll excuse the expression, of monnaie de singe.”(literally meaning “monkey money” or “funny money” or tainted money).These same words come back to haunt him later.
The refusal sets the scene for a massive hostile takeover involving billions of dollars of finance and government and shareholder manoeuvring. The corporate battle that ensues takes on epic proportions and becomes one of the world’s biggest and most hard-fought industry takeovers of recent years. It sends shockwaves through the political corridors of Europe, excites the world’s financial markets, enriches thirty hedge funds and transformes the global steel industry.The participants come from many different continents and include six billionaires, many of the world’s top investment bankers (interestingly with two brothers, pitted against each other, one working for Goldman Sachs and the other for Morgan Stanley),top law firms and public relations outfits , presidents , prime ministers and politicians occupying the highest positions in the current and emerging superpowers.
There are secret meetings, intrigue and lobbying ,accusations of skulduggery, culture clashes and allegations of racism et al.The political establishments of both Luxembourg and France who initially throw their weight against Mittal later do a 180-degree turnabout when arm-twisted by the powers that be in India and “friends” of Mittal in Europe. All except Dollé,who refuses to be accomodated in Arcelor-Mittal ,make money from the deal. Investment bankers on either side pocket $ 200 million in fees. Mittal’s total bill for banking, legal, lobbying and P.R. services amounts to $188 million. Other billionaires also became richer and some of them are offered board positions in Arcelor Mittal.At the end you do actually feel a little sad for Dollé!
‘The authors are:-Tim Bouquet , the first British journalist to ever write a major profile of Mittal , and Byron Ousey who was a PR adviser to the Luxembourg government, one of Arcelor’s biggest shareholders.They have had an outer ringside view of the events as well as access to people and record.This shows as they take the reader through the myriad twists and turns of this compelling business saga.The book is fast-paced and electrifying and brings to life the cut and thrust of big business at war with intrigue, lobbying, networking and moves and counter-moves which would be the envy of a chess Grandmaster. They take the reader through the rollercoaster ride that is mega dealmaking where no deal is done till it is done and where there is no place for the faint – hearted or the clock-watchers .The book is written a breathless, fast-paced style, evocative of the sleepless marathon at sprint speed run by the participants in this multi-billion drama.The book is so gripping I could not turn the pages fast enough to discover the next twist in the unfolding drama.I read the book cover to cover in one sitting,without a break.And I have not been so engrossed reading anything since I read the whole Harry Potter series at one go!An added bonus is the story of the early life of Lakshmi Mittal:The rise from obscurity to the Emperor of Steel.This story is as fascinating as Dhirubhai’s life.
I recommend this book unreservedly.