Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Steely Charmer Back in the [Pounds Sterling]6bn Battle for Corus

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Steely Charmer Back in the [Pounds Sterling]6bn Battle for Corus

Article excerpt


HE IS to the eyes of the average European fund manager the stereotypical Latin-American businessman. A good- looking former playboy who has risen ruthlessly to head Brazil's foremost industrial company. A seemingly charming entrepreneur, with ambitious expansionist plans that have earned him the sobriquet O Demunio - The Devil - back in downtown San Paolo.

That Benjamin Steinbruch is in London again four years after his last attempt to win control of former British Steel group Corus, and that he is back this time with a recommendation from the Corus board, suggests the prospect of his doing business in the financial capitals of western Europe has become less diabolical.

Back in 2002, when Steinbruch's CSN - Companhia Siderrgica Nacional - came knocking with a proposed [pounds sterling]3 billion deal for the then-struggling Corus, Steinbruch lost the public-relations war. He returned home battered by a British press that enthusiastically dredged up allegations, which he strongly denies, of improprieties during his climb to the top.

This time, however, he is back boosted by the lending power of Britain's own Barclays and international banks Goldman Sachs and ING Barings, ready to pull off a deal at nearly twice the 2002 price - [pounds sterling]5.8 billion including debt.

He is also talking the multinationalist talk of a would-be global player, suggesting Corus and its workers in South Wales and the North-East - and its pensioners, who have been given a [pounds sterling]138 million sweetener and a commitment to increased payments into their funds from the end of the decade - cannot afford not to do the deal.

"The strategic impetus for this combination is growth - in Brazil, in Europe and for our combined workforces," says Steinbruch. The "compelling industrial strategy" will see Brazil's low-cost, semi-finished steel processed for sale in Corus's lucrative European markets. He calls this "a winning combination for all stakeholders".

Steinbruch, 52, the grandson of Syrian emigres who built up a substantial-textile business in Brazil, was better known a couple of decades ago for chasing beautiful women - he dated a former Miss Brazil - and driving Ferraris. …

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