Friday, May 13, 2016

News: Seven bidders and Tata makes eight

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An MP with his finger on the pulse of the steel industry believes that Tata Steel may not have "completely left the field" despite putting all of its UK assets up for sale.

The Indian-owned steelmaker concluded that it is exploring all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential sale of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts. The formal process began on April 11 with contact made with 190 potential financial and industrial investors worldwide.

Seven bids have been immediately taken forward to the next stage of the sale process whilst Tata Steel Europe is clarifying outstanding points with a number of other parties who have submitted an expression of interest.

Two bids have so far been made public, from Liberty House and Excalibur Steel. Reports from India state that private steel producer JSW Steel Ltd is a bidder and The Financial Times reported that Nucor, the largest steel producer in the United States, is also on the list.

Also thought to be on the list are Greybull Capital, the investor close to finalising the purchase of Tata Steel's site in Scunthorpe, and China's Hebei Iron & Steel Group.

The Telegraph reported yesterday that Leeds-based turnaround fund Endless is also one of the seven bidders.

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Having secured a backbench debate in Westminster, Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: "I do not think Tata has completely left the field. I suggest that there are potentially eight players on the field at present. It will be interesting to hear what the Minister says about Tata's position and whether she believes it has completely left the field. I do not think it has, and it will be interesting to see in the coming days and weeks what Tata may or may not do.

"The main issue, though, is how Tata continues to behave and whether it wants to be viewed in the full glare of the world's media spotlight behaving in a sensible, rational and responsible manner. It remains incumbent upon the Government to provide the necessary oversight to ensure that Tata do exactly that, so that we can ensure current British steel capacity, ensure our defence and civil capability and demonstrate internationally that the UK values and wishes to protect an industry it leads the world in.

"Tata clearly states that it has refused bids from cherry-pickers. However, the Government must remain vigilant. A total buy-out does not prevent a sudden, total closure of UK sites, so that a purchaser can retrench the position of, say, an integrated works in Holland - I can think of one such company, but I will not mention which."

In response, Anna Soubry MP, The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: "The Government are clear that the steel industry has a viable long-term future in the United Kingdom, and that is why we have taken unprecedented action.

"I cannot say much more about the process with Tata, but we take all those points, and we work unstintingly. I pay credit to the Secretary of State and the officials for the work they are doing to secure a viable future for our outstanding steel industry."

Having recently visited Aldwarke in Rotherham and with plans to visit Stocksbridge, the minister went on to praise the speciality steel operations in South Yorkshire that has "an excellent workforce, outstanding unions and good management with a credible plan and a long-term future."

Speciality Steels has a £275m of turnover and is Tata Steel Europe's only Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) based business, specialising in carbon, alloy and stainless steels for demanding applications like aerospace, motorsports and oil and gas. Until recently it employed over 2,000 people. It is not considered a downstream business linked to Port Talbot and Tata Steel's strip products.

Seen as a boost to the UK steel industry, the European Parliament resolved this week that it is "convinced that, until China meets all five EU criteria required to qualify as a market economy, the EU should use a non-standard methodology in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into Chinese imports."

Tata Steel website

Images: Tata Steel

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