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U.S. Steel, Slovak officials to meet on fate of European plant

| Sunday, March 24, 2013, 11:02 p.m.

Representatives of U.S. Steel Corp. and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico will meet Downtown on Monday to discuss a deal that could maintain company ownership of its last steel plant in Europe.

The company had threatened to sell its Kosice, Slovakia, plant, which it bought in 2000.

U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney Boone confirmed on Sunday that the meeting was to take place but declined to comment further.

Pittsburgh's honorary Slovak Consul, Joseph Senko, said the two sides were negotiating an extension of tax breaks put into place at the time of the sale. Senko said he was to welcome the delegation Sunday night at the William Penn Hotel Downtown before the final negotiations and a possible signing Monday.

A statement released Friday by Fico's office said the prime minister, Finance Minister Peter Kazimer and Environmental Minister Peter Ziga planned to fly to America this week to discuss terms for keeping U.S. Steel's operations in Kosice, the second largest city in Slovakia.

“As negotiations progressed to the final stage, some open questions required intervention from the highest level,” the statement said.

In November, the Downtown-based steel giant entertained offers for its Kosice operation, which has 11,000 workers and is Slovakia's largest private corporate employer. U.S. Steel denied Slovak news reports several days later that it had sold the plant to Metinvest, a Ukranian mining group and steel producer.

Those reports triggered Fico to say the Slovak government would be willing to offer incentives to keep the company there, although no specifics have been made available.

U.S. Steel bought its Slovak steel mills and coke plants in 2000 for $475 million. The operation has been profitable for the company as a supplier of steel to European automakers.

Kosice is the company's last steel mill in Europe. It sold a Serbian mill back to that country's government for $1 in January 2012.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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