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Tycoon to use funds to set up new lender in Poland

French billionaire Romain Zaleski’s Carlo Tassara International SA plans to use the €1.17 billion ($1.7 billion) it raised from the sale of a stake in ArcelorMittal to fund new projects, including a bank.

”We decided to sell a little more than a third of our stake in ArcelorMittal to invest in projects that are close to our heart, notably a bank in Poland,” said Helene Zaleski, head of Carlo Tassara International.

ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, said it bought back 25 million shares from Brescia, Italy-based Carlo Tassara. The shares were bought at €46.60 each, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal said. Carlo Tassara now owns about 2.96% of the steelmaker, said Zaleski, Romain Zaleski’s daughter. “We remain a long-term shareholder in the group,” she said. “We believe in its potential.” Through his holding company Carlo Tassara International, Romain Zaleski, who’s of Polish descent, owns assets in power utilities, steel companies and financial institutions in France and Italy, where he lives.

Carlo Tassara expects to get a banking license from Polish authorities in about two months, Helene Zaleski said. “We’ll inject about €450 million and start from scratch,” she said, adding that the group will aim to control two to three percent of Poland’s banking market in five to six years. Carlo Tassara will also look at “other opportunities in the equity market”, Zaleski said, declining to elaborate. The investing firm owns 14% of French mining company Eramet SA, whose shares almost tripled last year. It has also built a 2% stake in Vinci SA, the world’s largest construction company.

Zaleski backed Mittal’s hostile bid for Arcelor, buying about 8% in the midst of the takeover battle. Mittal fought a five-month battle to create a company controlling 10% of the world’s steel production. ArcelorMittal shares have climbed about 50% since the deal was completed in November 2006, fueled by higher steel prices and construction demand in emerging markets. ArcelorMittal said last week it planned to pay $2.1 billion in cash dividends and spend $1 billion on share buy-backs this year. It bought back $2.6 billion of shares last year. (