U.S. Steel merger reveals complexity of foreign investment

PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown

My latest essay for the Minnesota Reformer, “Allies in Alloys” is out today. Check it out.

Keewatin Taconite as seen from the air. PHOTO: Peter Clevenstine, Minnesota DNR

After covering iron mining on the Mesabi Range for a couple decades, I’ve observed several mergers, acquisitions, shutdowns and assorted skullduggery. What I learned is that the mining business is a highly specialized analog to our political system. One must navigate partisanship, hyperbole, power struggles and egos, just like following Congress or the legislature.

The sale of U.S. Steel in a proposed merger with Nippon Steel of Japan is unique in both newsworthiness and public reaction. In short, most people don’t like the merger. I think a majority here on the Range outright hates the idea. The reasons are clear: We don’t want a foreign company owning our American steel industry.

And that makes sense, on the surface. But mining goes deeper. And the truth is that foreign money is all over American industry, and it’s probably a mistake to think that an American multinational corporation will have “our” interests at heart any more than a foreign company.

I dive into this conundrum in my latest essay, “Allies in Alloys: Foreign money, asset managers and the fight for American Industry,” appearing today in the Minnesota Reformer.

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