Friday, November 4, 2016

News: MPs debate steel again


The future of the steel industry has again been debated in Westminster with Angela Smith, the Penistone and Stocksbridge MP , urging the Government to give the issue the priority it still deserves.

At the end of March, Tata Steel, the Indian-owned steelmaker, concluded that it was exploring all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential sale of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts. Following a board meeting in July, the steelmaker decided on a separate process for the potential sale of its Speciality Steels business, which until recently employed over 2,000 people at sites like Aldwarke in Rotherham and Stocksbridge in Sheffield.

The sale process for the rest of the UK assets was halted and the Tata board said it was looking at "alternative and more sustainable portfolio solutions" including a potential joint venture with Germany's Thyssenkrupp which would see the strip products businesses combined.

Two bidders for Speciality Steel were shortlisted and given access to due diligence and management meetings but unions have called on Tata to come clean on discussions stating that steelworkers in Rotherham and Sheffield are being left in the dark.

To add to the uncertainty, Cyrus Mistry was recently ousted as chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group. He was replaced by predecessor Ratan Tata with no explanation or details given about the decision.


During the debate, which covered industrial strategy, pensions, energy costs, Brexit and procurement, Angela Smith MP said: "As would be expected of me, and because of the situation I face in my constituency, I want to focus briefly on the situation with the Tata holdings in the UK. Although the sale of Port Talbot has been suspended while Tata and ThyssenKrupp talk about a joint venture, Speciality Steels, which has plants in Sheffield—in Stocksbridge, in my constituency—and Rotherham, is still up for sale.

"Recent reports about the apparent boardroom manoeuvrings at Tata are a little worrying, to say the least. Given the current instability at the global board-level at Tata, I ask the Minister what the Government are doing to ensure that the sale of Tata Speciality Steels in South Yorkshire is not compromised by the uncertainties apparent at boardroom level at Tata HQ. What communication is he having with Tata at the highest level? I do not expect the detail, or for commercial sensitivity to be compromised, but can he tell us what discussions are taking place to make sure that the sale of Speciality Steels is given the priority by Tata that it deserves?"

A statement from Tata Steel said last week: "Tata Steel would like to clarify that it continues to pursue its European consolidation strategy and the talks with Thyssenkrupp AG for a potential joint venture are currently ongoing and progressing. However, there can be no guarantee that these talks will result in a definitive agreement between parties.

"Tata Steel UK is also deeply engaged with all relevant stakeholders in the UK to find a structural solution and a way forward with regard to the affordability of the legacy pension scheme liabilities. A successful outcome of the above engagement would significantly help in developing the foundation for a sustainable future for the UK business.

"Tata Steel would also like to reaffirm that it is currently pursuing a separate process for the potential sale of the South Yorkshire-based Specialty Steels business in the UK. Any further announcement on the matter will be made at an appropriate time. In the meanwhile, the management team and the employees of the company continue to work on improving the underlying performance of the European business amidst challenging business conditions."

Tata Steel website

Images: Tata Steel


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