By Bianca Flowers
(Reuters) -U.S. Senator J.D. Vance on Thursday asked U.S. Steel to rule out a foreign buyer, in a sign that the emerging bidding war for the iconic steel producer could run into political headwinds.
Vance, a Republican, said potential U.S. buyers for the Pittsburgh-based company should have priority because domestic steel production is an important aspect of national security.
"I ask that you consider the effects of any decision to America's industrial base and national security and insist that you reject any bids to acquire U.S. Steel or its assets from a foreign entity," Vance wrote in a letter to U.S. Steel CEO David Burritt and chair David Sutherland.
A U.S. Steel spokesperson acknowledged the senator's letter but said in a statement that the company would not comment on their review process of prospective buyers.
The company, valued at $6.8 billion, says it has fielded acquisition offers from other industry players, including Cleveland-Cliffs and Esmark. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal was also studying a potential bid for the company.
Vance represents Ohio, where Cleveland-Cliffs is based.
Industry analyst Josh Spoores said Vance's letter would not likely impact U.S. Steel's decision making.
"It appears to be political grandstanding from somebody out making a name for themselves more than any national security interest, said Spoores, principal analyst at CRU Group.
The United Steelworkers Union has also weighed in, saying it would not endorse any buyers other than Cleveland-Cliffs.
The union's endorsement is important because its collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Steel makes it a party in any buyout negotiations, though according to the company it does not have veto power.
Vance was elected to the Senate in 2022 after winning the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, a Republican who also pushed for greater domestic steel production. Vance first gained notice as the author of the 2016 memoir "Hillbilly Elegy."
(Reporting by Bianca Flowers in Chicago; Editing by Andy Sullivan)