Just two years ago, the Gallic establishment fought a bitter campaign to stop Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, acquiring Arcelor S.A.
Many French considered Arcelor a national champion, although it was technically based in Luxembourg. Mittal was even derided for offering “monkey money”—a phrase that some thought carried racist undertones.
How fortunes have changed. Mittal is now accompanying French President Nicolas Sarkozy on a trade mission to India. That’s why he’s not at the World Economic Forum in Davos. What’s more, Mittal is a director of EADS NV, the Franco-German defence group. There are few firms that the French consider more strategic.
What has changed?
Well, Mittal won the battle for Arcelor—making him the world’s most powerful steel baron. The French have a healthy respect for power. India is an important market. And Mittal, though based in London, is one of India’s business heroes. Two years ago, Indians were offended at the way France was trying to give him the brush-off. Having Mittal at his side is presumably helping Sarko open doors. Vive la réalisme.