Arcelor shows its mettle with higher dividend than Mittal''s

Arcelor today announced a hefty 85-per cent dividend amounting to€1.2 per share, which led analysts to interpret the move as an attempt to project itself as a more investor-friendly company than Mittal Steel, which has mounted an unsolicited bid for the Luxembourg-based steel-maker.

The steel-maker's fourth quarter net profit was €1.25 billion compared with €820 million in the fourth quarter of 2004 and full year profit for 2005 increased to €5.64 billion ($6.72 billion) from €4.34 billion the previous year and net profit €3.85 billion compared with €2.31 billion in 2004 on revenues of €32.61 billion, up from €30.18 billion the previous year, despite declining spot prices and higher raw material prices.

Arcelor's stock moved up 0.5 per cent to €29.93.

Arcelor said it had delivered €700 million per year of merger-related synergies one year ahead of plan and said it expected further gains in the future.

Arcelor says it plans to court its shareholders and promised to launch what it described as the "next phase of its value plan to its shareholders" on February 28. Arcelor has also promised that after an excellent 2005, 2006 would be a very good one for Arcelor.

Though Mittal's offer of €18.6 billion amounting to €29.1 per share is being considered as being favourable by investors, they expect the offer to be raised (Arcelor investors favour Mittal but want more ).

Ever since Mittal's offer the share prices of Arcelor have risen steadily, which analysts regard as reflection of the market expectations of the offer being sweetened further, something denied by Mittal himself yesterday