US Steel agreed Monday to sell itself to Nippon Steel for $14.1 billion, ending months of speculation about the fate of the American industrial heavyweight.

US Steel, which was formed more than a century ago from a part of Andrew Carnegie’s industrial empire, has been weighing several takeover offers, including that of a national rival, Cleveland-Cliffs. A little-known steel producer, Esmark, made an even higher offer, without many details, before backing out days later.

In the end, US Steel chose a bid from one of its largest global competitors that was worth much more than Cleveland-Cliffs’ initial bid: Nippon Steel pay $55 per share in cashcompared to the offer of $35 per share in cash and stock that Cleveland-Cliffs held in August.

The combination with Nippon Steel would create “a truly global steel company with combined capabilities and innovation capable of meeting the changing needs of our customers,” said David B. Burritt, CEO of US Steel. said in a statement.

The deal would add to Nippon Steel’s portfolio of plants around the world and make the Japanese company the world’s third-largest steelmaker, after China Baowu Group and ArcelorMittal, according to 2022 production figures from the world steel association.

US Steel, which was created by business magnates John Pierpont Morgan and Charles Schwab, has greatly reduced its influence since its heyday. The acquisition would mark further consolidation for the US industry, which is made up of three other large companies: Cleveland-Cliffs, Nucor and Steel Dynamics.

The sale of a venerated American company to a foreign firm is especially notable given the substantial efforts made in Washington in recent years to shore up companies like US Steel.

U.S. presidents have directed trade protections and subsidies to domestic steelmakers in recent years to try to boost the industry. Former President Donald J. Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on most steel imports during his administration. Trump and President Biden later renegotiated many of those tariffs into quota agreements, in which foreign governments agreed to limit the amount of steel they exported to the United States.

Steel has enjoyed a recent boom thanks to protections and laws like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, which have helped increase demand for steel and prices by limiting competition from foreign markets.

But American steelmakers have struggled to compete against low-priced, subsidized metals made by foreign competitors, including China, which now accounts for more than half of global steel production.

The sale of US Steel is a symbolic coda for a major player in the growth of the US economy in the first half of the 20th century. Feats of American architecture and engineering such as Chicago’s Willis Tower; the New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville, West Virginia; and the United Nations building in New York were built with products manufactured by US Steel. The company supplied hundreds of millions of tons of steel to the US military during the most important conflicts of the 20th century.

But the company has faced challenges for decades due to intensifying foreign competition and has undertaken multiple reorganizations and acquisitions to try to stay afloat. In an effort to diversify, US Steel acquired an oil company, Marathon Oil, in 1982, just to turn it in 2001.

US Steel currently operates nearly two dozen facilities in the United States, as well as a steel manufacturing plant in Slovakia. The plants use massive machinery to transform molten steel into solid plates, roll them into thinner sheets or bend them into tubes and ship them to automakers, oil drillers and other industrial companies.

The United Steelworkers union, which represents the majority of US Steel workers, has reacted angrily to the prospect of being bought out by a foreign company. He had said he would only accept offers from Cleveland-Cliffs, which is also represented by the same union. The union ratified a four-year contract with US Steel in December 2022, which states that a buyer must reach agreement on a new labor agreement before completing the acquisition.

In Monday’s deal announcement, Nippon Steel said it would honor all agreements between US Steel and the union, including collective bargaining pacts.

The United Steelworkers criticized the company’s decision in a statement Monday, saying it demonstrated “the same greedy and short-sighted attitude that has guided US Steel for too long.”

“We remained open throughout this process to working with US Steel to keep this iconic American company domestically owned and operated, but instead they decided to set aside the concerns of their dedicated workforce and sell to a foreign-owned company.” , said. .

The union said it would urge government regulators to examine the transaction to determine whether it served the country’s national security interests.

Analysts at BMO Capital Markets said Nippon Steel’s offer was a surprise, and the price it offered was even “a bigger surprise,” representing a “sufficient” valuation for US Steel. But the union’s resistance to the deal has “the potential to complicate the transaction,” they said.

Laura Hirsch and Santul Nerkar contributed reports.