Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal has put its plans for a new steel plant in Algeria on hold, while in Egypt, the authorities have given the steel giant until August to break ground on steel plant it was planning the build on the Red Sea Coast or risk having its licence revoked. 

Considering it is the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal has a relatively low profile in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena). The firm has just 135 employees based in the Middle East, out of a total workforce of more than 280,000.

While 2009 was a bad year for the steel industry, demand in Egypt is rising this year with the Egypt’s Chamber of Metallurgical Industries predicting a 10 to 15 per cent rise in 2010. ArcelorMittal has said in statement it seeking imminent talks regarding the plant with the government.

However, what is surprising is the firm deciding to put its plans at Jijel in Algeria on hold. The country has an abundance of gas, it has a booming infrastructure programme that includes massive investments in oil and gas, as well as public buildings, and is also in an strategic geographical location.

However, ArcelorMittal must have its reasons because in other areas of the Middle East, such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the company is pressing ahead with plant building programmes. The world’s biggest steel company does want to expand in the region, but at its own pace.