Thursday 8 December 2016

UK steel's saviour waits in the wings

Thomas Biesheuvel and Guy Johnson

Published 05/04/2016 | 02:30

Workers with banners at the Port Talbot plant in Wales. Photo: Bloomberg
Workers with banners at the Port Talbot plant in Wales. Photo: Bloomberg

A potential saviour of the UK's steel industry said it expects to make progress in talks with the government this week.

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"It's the beginning of the dialogue, how the dialogue progresses will become clear this week," Liberty House Executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said in a Bloomberg TV interview yesterday.

"What is clear is that government is committed to finding a solution to this problem, what that means entirely is not clear."

The British government is seeking to combat a crisis in its domestic steel industry after India's Tata Steel said last week it's considering the sale of its loss-making UK division, jeopardizing 40,000 jobs, including 6,500 at the huge Port Talbot plant in South Wales.

India's Tata Group bought the former Corus Steel, an Anglo-Dutch group, in 2007, but the business is lossmaking.

A flood of cheap Chinese exports has thrown the global steel industry into turmoil, eroding profits for producers around the world as prices for the alloy have plunged to the lowest in a decade.

Liberty House, a private company, has already reached an agreement to buy the Clydebridge and Dalzell plants in Scotland from Tata.

Gupta said the company's downstream assets, which include rolling mills, will be "more easy" to sell then Tata's blast furnaces in Scunthorpe and Port Talbot that compete more directly with cheaper production in places like Russia and Brazil.

Gupta said he saw no need for the business to be nationalised by the UK government and that there was enough time to do a deal. UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday declined to rule out a temporary nationalisation of Tata Steel's UK operations, while reiterating the government would prefer not to do so. The potential loss of much of Britain's remaining steel industry is seen as a blow not only to the jobs affected but to the heavy and light industrial sectors. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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