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Javid meets potential steel saviour

BBC News BBC News 5/04/2016
One of the blast furnaces of the Tata Steel plant in Port Talbot, South Wales © Reuters One of the blast furnaces of the Tata Steel plant in Port Talbot, South Wales

The man interested in buying Tata's British steel operations, including Port Talbot, has been meeting the business secretary for talks.

A worker inside a Chinese steel factory © Reuters A worker inside a Chinese steel factory

Sanjeev Gupta, chief executive of the commodities firm Liberty House, met Sajid Javid to discuss his potential plans.

Earlier, Mr Gupta told the BBC he would be interested in the whole business.

"Many [parts] are loss-making at the moment but we believe they can be turned around," he said.

However, he reiterated his doubts about the viability of the blast furnaces.

"The biggest problem we see is the blast furnaces because they are importing all their raw material to smelt steel."

Meanwhile, Mr Javid has met Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, the steelworkers' union, along with other union leaders.

After the meeting Mr Rickhuss said: "Tata's highly skilled, committed workforce will be crucial to any future success of the steel industry. That is why I have demanded that Sajid Javid convene a project steering group, on which the trade unions must be represented, to steer this whole process."

And he said the UK steel industry must not "simply be sold off for scrap" but be sold to new owners "with the patience to allow British steelmaking to succeed".

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Tata Steel UK: What are the options?

Is China to blame for steel woes?

Expand production

Mr Gupta said Liberty House's alternative suggestion to blast furnaces would be to still make hot metal, but to make it from local raw scrap material rather than imported raw material.

"Making new steel doubles our carbon footprint, "he said.

"There is a way of making steel in the UK which has a much lower carbon footprint that what we currently do.

"At the moment we export our scrap and bring back steel - we import 6 million tonnes of steel. I would like to see more of that being made here. So our commitment would be not just to produce what is currently produced but actually to expand production eventually in due course. "

About half of Port Talbot's 4,000 employees are working in the blast furnaces and on the coke side, but Mr Gupta said his intention would be to redeploy all of them.

When pressed as to whether that meant there would be no redundancies at all, he said: "That would definitely be my objective, yes."

Buyers 'coming forward'

Separately, the business secretary told the BBC that it was "great" that there was interest in Tata's UK business from Liberty and others.

Mr Javid said "the important thing is where the buyers are coming forward we are ready to work with them".

On Wednesday, he is due to meet the Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry in Mumbai.

While there he wants to get a final agreement on the sales process.

"I want to make sure that when the documentation for that is issued that it's clear that the UK government understands it's got a role to every potential buyer and that we are well coordinated with Tata," he added.

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