* Cevital plans 7 mln T steel plant
* Plant to turn Algeria into steel exporter
* Plant will compete with ArcelorMittal's Algerian unit
By Hamid Ould Ahmed
ALGIERS, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Cevital, Algeria's biggest private company, said it plans to build a $3.8 billion steel complex that would turn the country into a steel exporter and pose a serious challenge to ArcelorMittal's (ISPA.AS: Quote) local unit.
"We have a steel project. We plan to produce 7.1 million tonnes (per year)," Issad Rebrab, Cevital's owner and top executive, told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday.
Asked how the company plans to finance the project, Rebrab said: "The level of investment there is estimated to be $3.8 billion. We have enough financial resources to finance it".
He did not elaborate on the financing, did not say when Cevital would award the construction contracts for the plant nor when it would start production.
"Cevital's development strategy is based on two points: meeting demand here and competing on foreign markets ... This project will allow Algeria to move from being an importer (of steel) to an exporter," Rebrab said.
Demand for building materials has been growing in the North African country, where the government has launched infrastructure projects worth billions of dollars.
The plant will be located in the Bellara industrial zone, where Egypt's Ezz Steel (ESRS.CA: Quote) had wanted to build a steel complex after winning a deal worth $750 million. The Algerian government froze that deal earlier this year.
Global steelmaker ArcelorMittal has a steel plant in the Algerian city of Annaba, which produced about 750,000 tonnes of flat and long steel products in 2009, with most of the output going to the domestic market.
Sporadic strikes have hit the Annaba operation this year, with workers demanding that management reopen a coking plant to save jobs. ArcelorMittal closed the coking plant in October over safety concerns.
(Editing by Jane Baird)