The first major bid for Tata Steel’s United Kingdom assets will be placed on the table this week after commodities firm Liberty House headed by Sanjeev Gupta confirmed it will submit a Letter of Intent for all the holdings, including the giant Port Talbot plant in Wales.
Tata Steel announced the planned disposal of its United Kingdom sites earlier this year, putting more than 15,000 jobs at risk at sites including Port Talbot, Newport, Rotherham, Walsall, Corby and Shotton.
Gupta has said he wants to convert Port Talbot from a blast furnace to an electric arc furnace operation.
The Business Secretary is to be questioned by MPs about the crisis in the steel industry and efforts to save thousands of jobs.
If Liberty ends up acquiring Tata’s United Kingdom assets it will face a £500m funding deficit in the £14.5bn pension scheme – a factor which has deterred many potential buyers.
Macquarie, the Australian bank, was advising Liberty on a potential bid, and is considered a potential financial backer of any takeover.
Gupta, a Punjab-born graduate in economics and management from Cambridge University, has in the last week completed the acquisition of Tata’s Scottish plants in a back to back transaction, which saw the Scottish Government acquire the two plants of Dalzell and Clydebridge in Lanarkshire and immediately sell them to Liberty House.
Tata Steel’s United Kingdom assets also include the site at Llanwern in Newport.
A Tata management team buyout is seen as the other serious contender at this stage. “If we were at the same electricity costs as Germany, then (Tata Steel UK) would be 40 million pounds better off – we would not be having negative numbers”.
Mr Jones said he would give the 4,000-strong workforce at Port Talbot “my assurance that, come what may on Thursday night, I won’t stop fighting for their jobs”.
While falling support of a formal endorsement, and stressing that its £60m identified support package could be made available to any successful bidder for Tata’s United Kingdom business, the Welsh Government is pressing for any owners to have employees at the heart of their business plans.