Political Furor Over U.S. Steel Bid Puts Investment Panel in Spotlight

At a campaign event last month in Pennsylvania, the heartland of American steel manufacturing, President Biden made clear that he does not want the proposed takeover of U.S. Steel by Japan’s Nippon Steel to happen.

“We’re finally making sure that United States Steel stays United States Steel,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s not going to be anybody else’s steel.”

How that promise will be kept has yet to be determined. U.S. Steel said this week in its first-quarter earnings release that it expected the acquisition to be completed in the second half of this year, but noted that timing depended on getting regulatory approvals.

On Friday, Nippon Steel said that it was delaying its timeline for the deal to close, from the middle of the year to the end of 2024, because it had been asked to provide more information about the transaction to the Department of Justice, which is reviewing the deal.

The intensifying scrutiny of the acquisition has raised expectations that the $15 billion buyout could ultimately be scuttled by the Biden administration. It has also called attention to the secretive interagency panel that could be the ultimate arbiter of the merger: the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

With a presidential election six months away and opposition to the deal strong among union members and some Senate Democrats, the opaque committee is facing pressure to conclude that a deal involving a company of a top American ally threatens national security.

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