August 4, 2021

“For five years, the Ascoval steel plant has survived the disastrous fate that has been promised to it”

Losses and profits. Bishop of Amiens at the end of the VIe century, Saint Saulve traveled through his diocese promising eternal life to flocks still seduced by paganism. The holy savior (Salve), will he be able to snatch from death the main industry of the northern city which now bears his name? For five years, and the announcement of its disappearance, the Ascoval steel plant has survived the disastrous fate that is promised to it. Since the end of April 2021, the Rothschild bank has been working to find a new buyer for it after the collapse of its current owner, the British group Liberty Steel. The Financial Times cites Arcelor, German Saarstahl and Italian Bertrame as candidates.

Read also Ascoval and Hayange: the Liberty Steel group is looking for possible buyers

In 2019, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, nevertheless believed he could close this file for a long time, which had pursued him since his arrival at the ministry. “It’s a nice ending”, he had let go, relieved, on the occasion of the sale of the factory. Too happy to put an end to this puzzle symbol, with its 280 workers, of the inevitable deindustrialisation of France, he had not paid too much attention to the cassandres which raised the risk of bankruptcy of this new buyer.

Insufficiently competitive

Yet the precedents did not plead for a peaceful outcome. Created in 1975 by the manufacturer of tubes Vallourec, it announces its closure in 2016, because it too seeks to save its skin and sheds the most expensive and less competitive assets. It gives up an insufficiently competitive steel industry against giants like Arcelor or ThyssenKrupp. Faced with the outcry and the mobilization of its employees, buyers are found. They will be called Ascometal (which will give the name Ascoval), then Altifort, and finally British Steel. They all went bankrupt a few months after the factory was taken over. Ultimately, Liberty Steel will not escape the curse. Not yet bankrupt, but ruined by the collapse of its financier Greensill, it is selling its many French assets, including Ascoval and the Hayange steel plant.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Ascoval, Hayange … Why the bankruptcy of the financial institution Greensill threatens French steelworks

These two have been linked ever since, to save Ascoval, Hayange, a manufacturer of railway tracks, was asked to order its steel bars from the Saint-Saulve company. Already in 2019, on the occasion of the choice of British Steel, the State had rejected serious candidates, including Arcelor, because they wanted Hayange, but not Ascoval. Likewise, Liberty Steel landed the piece a year later by agreeing to take over the two companies.

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