Lakshmi Mittal. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Lakshmi Mittal. Picture: BLOOMBERG

New Delhi — An Indian court rejected on Thursday a petition challenging ArcelorMittal’s proposed takeover of debt-ridden Essar Steel, removing a hurdle in billionaire Lakshmi Mittal’s entry into the country’s fast-growing steel market.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) said that the Supreme Court had already cleared the takeover bid and therefore it could not consider the appeal by Essar’s founders, Shashi Ruia and Ravi Ruia, lawyer Ravin Kapur said.

Kapur’s law firm, Phoenix Legal, is representing some of the lenders to Essar Steel, one of 12 large steel and other infrastructure companies that defaulted and were referred to India’s bankruptcy court in 2017.

“The judge said the Ruia plea has to be rejected for various reasons, including that it suffered from unreasonable delays,” Kapur said.

The Essar Steel case has dragged on for about 700 days, with global and local steel firms locking horns to grab Essar’s assets. In April the Supreme Court asked ArcelorMittal to halt payments to Essar Steel’s lenders until various appeals were disposed of in the courts.

ArcelorMittal has been trying to enter India’s steel market, which is dominated by local companies, for over a decade but bureaucratic hassles and land acquisition woes stifled its bids.

“We note today’s ruling by the NCLAT. We need to review the full written order to understand any implications on completion of the transaction,” ArcelorMittal said in an e-mailed statement.

An Essar spokesperson said the firm would consider the latest court order. “We are awaiting the detailed order and will decide our course of action thereafter,” the spokesperson said.

Reuters