French President Francois Hollande on Thursday met steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal to discuss the fate of the last blast furnaces in the eastern Lorraine region after a report that ArcelorMittal planned to shut them down.
Hollande's office said the president told Mittal of "the demands of the state and the government" concerning the Florange site which his company owns and which lies in what was once the heart of France's steel industry.
Liberation newspaper said that ArcelorMittal planned to shut the furnaces which employ 550 of the 3,200 employees at the plant. Their closure would deal a fresh blow to the Socialist government's battle against unemployment.
The paper said the French state was offering to buy the furnaces for a symbolic euro and then find a firm willing to keep them working. ArcelorMittal has not commented on the report.
Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said the company had made a concession in giving into a French government demand that ArcelorMittal allow another company to restart furnace operations at Florange.
Montebourg said the French government insisted that any shutdowns are accompanied by ArcelorMittal making significant investments in other areas, citing a figure of 150 million euros ($194 million).
The decline of France's manufacturing sector was a key issue in this year's presidential election campaign.
ArcelorMittal is the leading supplier of steel products in all major markets including automotive, construction, household appliances and packaging. It operates in 60 countries and employs about 260,000 people worldwide.
It has temporarily closed several sites in Europe, in France as well as Belgium and Spain.