Mittal to Build Tver Plant

BRUSSELS -- ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, said Tuesday that it would build its first new steel plant in Russia to feed the country's booming construction industry.

It will spend an initial $100 million developing the site in the Tver region, 180 kilometers north of Moscow.

Work will begin in the first half of 2008 to build a furnace eventually capable of churning out 1 million tons of long carbon steel per year and two bar mills.

The first mill, producing 600,000 tons of rebars and merchant bars, should be up and running by the start of 2010.

The plant would employ 200 workers directly and create an extra 400 jobs indirectly, the company said.

"The mill in Tver will give us exposure to a construction sector which is expected to grow at a yearly rate above 10 percent," said Malay Mukherjee, who sits on ArcelorMittal's group management board.

Tver Governor Dmitry Zelenin also welcomed the agreement, saying it would help bolster the region's development. "We are very happy to be able to partner with a world-class company such as ArcelorMittal to further develop its potential," Zelenin said, according to a statement posted on the firm's web site.

Russia -- along with Brazil, China and India -- is leading world steel demand, with the booming oil and gas industries requiring more energy piping, and higher household incomes leading to a boost in construction of both buildings and cars.

At the same time, demand from Europe and North America is slowing, not least as steelmakers such as ArcelorMittal face tougher competition from Chinese imports.

Separately, ArcelorMittal said it concluded a share buyback program, in which it spent 1.35 billion euros ($1.95 billion) for 27 million shares at an average price of 50.15 euros ($72.18).

It now expects to have another share buyback, planning to purchase up to 44 million shares over two years to be used in "future corporate opportunities or for cancellation." It said it would not pay more than 120 percent of the shares' 12-month average closing price.