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One of France's richest men set to sue EireComposites

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Romain Zaleski

Romain Zaleski

Romain Zaleski

A Galway-based company that makes products for the space industry is locked in a legal dispute with one of France's richest men.

A subsidiary of Carlo Tassara, a holding company for the assets of Frenchman Romain Zaleski, is suing EireComposites over a €2m loan contract.

It alleges the Irish company effectively cancelled the contract by converting it into shares before EireComposites was sold to a new owner.

The case is proceeding through the courts. EireComposites declined to comment when contacted by the Sunday Independent.

Mr Zaleski was once ranked France's 10th richest citizen by Forbes magazine, alongside the likes of Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy (LVMH) boss Bernard Arnault and Jean-Claude Decaux.

A former civil servant and ministerial advisor, Mr Zaleski entered the private sector in the 1980s and started investing in French and Italian steel and energy companies in 1995, Forbes' profile of him said.

However, his wealth has dipped in recent years. In 2008, Forbes ranked him the 438th richest man in the world, with a €2.7bn fortune, on its list of global billionaires, but last year, French business magazine Challenges said his fortune was worth €730m -up from €438m in 2013.

Mr Zaleski was a central figure in the takeover of Luxembourg steel company, Arcelor, by Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. A key shareholder in Arcelor, Mr Zaleski backed the Mittal deal rather than an alternative deal with Russian steel company, Severstal.

His company has invested heavily in banks, including Italian giant Intesa Sanpaolo, but saw the value of its bank shares plummet during the financial crash.

Last year, it sold off a chunk of Intesa shares, helping to reduce its debt from €1.5bn at the end of 2013 to €862m by the end of last June.

Carlo Tassara recently made the news when the Polish financial regulator agreed to give the company more time to sell a stake in Polish bank, Alior.

Mr Zaleski's firm has been struggling to find a buyer for the stake. The Polish authorities had originally given it until the end of this year, but extended the deadline to the middle of 2016 in September.

EireComposites is based in the Gaeltacht village of Indreabhan and makes plastic components like wall panels for aircraft.

In recent years, the company was awarded €1.9m in R&D contracts from the European Space Agency, aimed at producing new lightweight components for space launcher and satellite structures.

It also has customers in the wind energy, automotive and marine sectors.

EireComposites was formed in 2006 after a merger of four composites companies: Irish Composites, Composites Testing Laboratory, PPA and Gaoth-Tec.

The company's most recent accounts show it had net liabilities of €1.7m at the end of 2013.

Sunday Indo Business