Wednesday, May 3, 2017

News: Tata timeline in South Yorkshire

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Under Indian ownership, the Rotherham steelworks continued to produce some of the best high grade specialist steel in the world despite the global economic downturn, rising electricity costs, restructuring and job losses.

2003 - As its stock market value plummeted, Corus - the Anglo-Dutch company created in a merger in 1999 - begins looking for a buyer.

2006 - The Indian Tata Group propose a £4.1 billion takeover of Corus at 455 pence a share in cash, which is approved by the Corus board.

2006 - A mammoth bidding war begins between Tata Steel and Cia. Siderurgica Nacional (CSN) of Brazil.

2007 - Pushed up to 608 pence per share in cash, Tata concludes the £6.7 billion Corus takeover. It is almost ten times larger than any previous acquisition made by the group or by any Indian company.

2007 - Still operating as Corus Engineering Steels, success is found at the higher end of the market. The South Yorkshire operations are supplying steel for the A380 Airbus, the world's largest passenger aircraft, and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Some production staff are moved to Rotherham from Stocksbridge and a new scrap bay commissioned at Aldwarke.

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2007 - The site at Stocksbridge suffers from extensive flooding but the loss in output was kept to a minimum.

2008 - As the downturn takes affect, and demand falls, Corus reduces its crude steel production at their main European sites by up to 20%.

2009 - Cost saving initiatives are announced including extensive restructuring at the Rotherham site. Proposals lead to job reductions of around 700 at Aldwarke and 18 at Stocksbridge. The Aldwarke Primary Mill and Finishing Banks, and Large Bloom Caster are earmarked for closure.

2009 - Improved ingot facilities are commissioned at Aldwarke and a service centre opens in Suzhou, China.

2009 - The decline in steel demand in Europe and America continues and another restructure is announced, affecting another 400 jobs in Rotherham.

2010 - Riding the storm, Corus announces plans to recruit 160 new workers in South Yorkshire with 50 to support its manufacturing operation in Rotherham.

2010 - Plans announced to recruit a further 154 new workers for its South Yorkshire manufacturing operations. Apprentice and graduate recruitment resumes.
2010 - Corus sites in Rotherham adopt Tata Steel as its new identity. Tata Steel Speciality Steels is launched.

2010 - The European operations return to profit and Tata restructures some of the massive debt it took on to buy Corus.

2010 - To increase production of aerospace steels, a £6.5m investment plan for new high-tech equipment including two vacuum arc remelting furnaces at Stocksbridge is announced. A move that safeguards 2,000 jobs at Rotherham and Stocksbridge.

2011 - Demand for high value steel continues to increase prompting an increase in production and prices for South Yorkshire-made engineering bar and aerospace products.

2011 - Tata announce a £4.5m investment in South Yorkshire - £3.5m in its Rotherham operations (£2.5m at Aldwarke and £1m at the Thrybergh Bar Mill) to improve plant reliability and energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and boost production of high-value steel products.

2011 - Away from South Yorkshire, Tata mothballs plants in Scunthorpe and Teeside.

2012 - Tata Steel opens a state-of-the-art engineering training centre at its Stocksbridge site as apprentice recruitment continues.

2012 - Low demand across the eurozone and higher raw material costs impact on the economic performance of Tata Steel in Europe. As well as cutting costs, a new strategy is announced to target demanding industries, like automotive, aerospace, mechanical engineering and construction.

2012 - Tata Speciality Steels opens an aerospace service centre in Xi'an, China to serve the growing demand for aerospace materials in the region.

2012 - Another restructure is announced following a significant decline in demand for bar steel products in a number of key markets, including automotive, bright conversion and bright bar. Tata Steel says it will lead to the loss of 135 jobs, including 110 in Rotherham.
2012 - At the same time Tata Steel's bar business is moved to Speciality Steel and a £2.75m investment is announced for the Rotherham operations so it can focus on supplying hi-tech products to advanced manufacturing sectors.

2012 - Tata Steel is announced as a partner in the £22m "Proving Factory" which aims to bridge the gap between small enterprises developing leading edge low carbon technology and large vehicle manufacturers. A centre at Rotherham is proposed.

2012 - Development underway on a new facility for the production of high-purity vacuum induction melted (VIM) steels for the aerospace industry at Stocksbridge.

2013 - National press reports state that Tata is planning to close its R&D site at Swinden Technology Centre in Rotherham.

2013 - Tata is forced to announce a $1.6 billion writedown on its assets, mainly on the European operations that suffered from a market slowdown and rising raw material prices since the Corus acquisition. A "strategic review of its asset portfolio" is underway.

2013 - Tata announces a £45m long-term export agreement to supply aerospace steels to Safran Group. Subsidiaries of which include Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, who chose Rotherham made steel for the landing gear of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

2013 - The company confirms it will build a Vacuum Induction Melting (VIM) furnace at Stocksbridge, an investment of £15m.

2013 - Investment in the Billet Mill at Stocksbridge saw two new Profile Gauges installed in the finishing line. A "Scrap Shredder" hammer mill is installed at Aldwarke which takes scrap from another Tata owned company, JLR at Hailwood.
2014 - A funding grant of £8m for R&D is announced but Tata admits that, after initial work takes place at the Swinden Labs site in Rotherham, its R&D operations could relocate to another UK site.

2014 - Financial results show a turnaround with an increase production, sales and overall performance, for its important European operations. Further work is done by the board in India to tackle debts of $7 billion.

2014 - The relocation away from the Swinden Technology Centre in Rotherham, where 150 staff are based, is confirmed as Tata announces a new R&D site at Warwick University. A residential development on the site is on the cards.

2015 - Community's "Stand up for Steel" campaign describes 2015 as "a critical year for the industry" and a strike threat looms after Tata Steel announced their intention to close the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) to future accrual.

2015 - The European operations post a profit of £109.8m, a turnaround from the £16m loss in the previous year but "headwinds" remain in the European steel industry which is hit by an influx of cheap imports. The under-performing Long Products UK business is put up for sale.

2015 - A strike is suspended and the dispute ends after unions vote to accept changes to the pension scheme which will keep the scheme open, ending the prospect of the first steel strike in 30 years.

2015 - Building on the Proving Factory concept, a state-of-the-art Advanced Machining Centre (AMC) opens at Newburgh Precision's site in Rotherham. It enables Tata to work with customers from concept to finished component. A service centre opens in Nagpur, India.

2015 - Tata announces another restructure. The next stage in plans to refocus its speciality and bar business on high-value markets place 720 jobs at risk, around 500 in Rotherham. The bar business was hit by the strong pound and high electricity costs which were more than double those of key European competitors.
2015 - Rotherham hosts a "steel summit" where ministers, steel companies, MPs, unions and trade bodies discuss the challenges facing the global steel industry.

2016 - Funding is secured to support steelworkers under the threat of redundancy as a local taskforce coordinates support. Unions, workers, local MPs and Tata itself continue to call for more support from Government.

2016 - A shock announcement from the Indian-owned steelmaker after it concluded that it is exploring all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential sale of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts.

2016 - The Government said it has been working on finding a long-term sustainable future for steel making across the UK, with a significant focus on Tata's blast furnace at Port Talbot. Business minister Anna Soubry visits the South Yorkshire sites.

2016 - Liberty House emerges as a prospective buyer for the UK operations.

2016 - Tata Steel and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) confirm that a criminal investigation has been launched at Speciality Steels in South Yorkshire after "inappropriate testing and certification procedures" were uncovered.

2016 - Interest is high in hand-picking the South Yorkshire operations from Tata Steel. Seven bids taken forward by the board. Reported suitors include Liberty House, Greybull, who took on assets in Scunthorpe; German giant, ThyssenKrupp; new company, Albion Steel, led by co-founders Dr Rod Beddows and Tony Pedder OBE; Excalibur Steel; India's JSW Steel Ltd; American firm, Nucor; China's Hebei Iron & Steel Group; and turnaround fund, Endless.

2016 - Union man Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said he believed that Tata Steel may not have "completely left the field" despite putting all of its UK assets up for sale.

2016 - Tata confirms that it will begin a separate process for the potential sale of its Speciality Steels business. The main sale process is stopped whilst discussions take place with thyssenkrupp AG regarding a potential joint venture with a combination of strip products businesses.

2016 - Two bidders come forward for the Speciality Steels sites in South Yorkshire and are given access to due diligence and management meetings.

2016 - International industrials and metals group, Liberty House, confirms it has entered into exclusive negotiations with Tata Steel UK to acquire its Speciality Steels business for a total consideration of £100m.

2016 - An agreement with trade unions is reached and consultation starts with employees on a proposal to close the British Steel Pension Scheme to future accrual.

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2017 - The European operations are back in profit - posting £74m of earnings before tax (EBITDA) in the quarter ended December 31 2016. It reported a £90m loss during the same period in 2015.

2017 - Liberty House closes the £100m deal with Tata Steel.

2017 - Changes to the pension scheme are backed by the unions, who also secured a guarantee from Tata that commits Liberty House to honour the new defined contribution pension arrangements.

2017 - Tata officially hands over the South Yorkshire operations to Liberty House, who immediately announce a £20m investment, plans to take on 300 staff and increase production to over one million tonnes per annum at Rotherham where the current output is around 209,000 per year.

Bimlendra Jha, CEO of Tata Steel UK (pictured, right), said: "As a responsible owner, Tata Steel in the last couple of years has undertaken a transformation plan at Speciality Steels, including investing in a state-of-the-art vacuum induction melting furnace, to ensure the business can have a sustainable future.

"We thank the employees, trade unions and management of Speciality Steels for their diligent hard work in the journey to turn around the business in difficult times and we wish them a successful future under new ownership."

Certainly a mixed picture for Tata in South Yorkshire and the debate over the initial 2007 takeover deal are still being had.

Ousted Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry, said last year that: "It is common knowledge that the decision to acquire Corus for over $12 billion, when only a year earlier it was available at less than half that price, was based on one man's ego [Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Group] and against the reservations of some board members and senior executives. The overpayment made it harder to invest in the acquired assets which had been neglected, and thereby, placed many jobs at risk."

In response the Tata board said: "The acquisition of Corus Group Plc was based on the long term strategy of the company to pursue growth through international expansion and enhance the portfolio of value added products. The performance of Corus Plc post acquisition validated the strategy till the "black swan" event of the global financial crisis structurally impacted the underlying demand conditions in Europe causing financial hardship to the entire industry."

Whilst it carried significant debt following the deal, Tata Steel still invested £1.5 billion in its UK business since acquiring Corus in 2007. The Rotherham sites have come close a few times to shutting down completely but they are genuinely "world class" and their high value products are in demand.

Tata Steel Europe website
Liberty House website

Images: Tata Steel / Liberty House


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