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Tata to begin sale process by Monday

BBC News BBC News 6/04/2016
A worker inside a Chinese steel factory © Reuters A worker inside a Chinese steel factory

Tata Steel will begin the formal process to sell its UK plants by Monday, Business Secretary Sajid Javid has said after talks in India.

Map showing location of Tata teel jobs in the UK © BBC Map showing location of Tata teel jobs in the UK

Mr Javid said a number of parties had come forward, but only named Liberty Steel, whose interest is widely known.

He said the meeting was "constructive and positive" and had demonstrated once again Tata was a "responsible company".

Meanwhile, Liberty boss Sanjeev Gupta admitted his takeover plans had been written "on the back of an envelope".

He also said taking over the loss-making business would be a "daunting proposition".

'Constructive'

Tata is known to want a quick sale, but Mr Javid gave no details of what the timeframe for a sale would be.

Mr Javid said that Tata had told him it would allow a "reasonable amount of time" for the sale process.

He added that he expected other interested parties to come forward once the formal sale process had begun.

Sajid Javid was meeting Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry for the first time since the firm announced the sale a week ago.

It came after steelworkers' union Community asked Tata to clarify the timeframe for the sale and make sure it was not a "rushed process".

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: "After leaving his meeting with Tata's Chairman in Mumbai, Sajid Javid phoned to brief me on his discussions.

"I welcome the fact that the secretary of state informed me of the constructive conversation he had with Tata. I am pleased that he raised those issues I had raised with him before he flew to India.

"I am encouraged to learn that Tata have committed to be a responsible seller and to allow the time we need to secure a new commercial operator."

Pay cut

Local MP Stephen Kinnock said it was vital the sale was allowed enough time.

Mr Kinnock, the MP for Aberavon, which includes Port Talbot, told the BBC: "My sense is that Tata Steel are keen to move very quickly, they want to find a buyer as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, union members at Tata's Scunthorpe site are voting on a 3% cut in pay and a reduction in pensions, which is part of a turnaround plan ahead of the expected sale to investment firm Greybull Capital.

Talks over the sale of the plant, which employs about 4,000 staff, had been taking place for several months before Tata said it was looking to shed all its UK assets.

UK steel crisis

'Substantial support' needed for steel

Who might buy Tata in Port Talbot?

What's going wrong with Britain's steel industry?

Tata Steel UK: What are the options?

Is China to blame for steel woes?

Mr Javid, who was on a business trip to Australia when Tata first announced it was planning to sell its UK steelworks, is under pressure over his handling of the crisis.

The business secretary has admitted he was caught unaware by Tata's announcement, telling the BBC that while he had known the firm was reviewing its UK operations, the firm had gone "much further than we expected".

Unions have accused the business secretary of "taking his eye off the ball" and have called for him to stand down if a buyer for the steelworks is not found.

Steel saviour?

The Mumbai meeting came a day after Mr Javid held what he described as "constructive meetings" with unions and industry body UK Steel.

On Tuesday, Mr Javid also met Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Sanjeev Gupta, chief executive of the commodities firm Liberty House, which has said it is interested in buying Tata's British steel operations, including Port Talbot.

Tata Steel directly employs 15,000 workers in the UK, across plants in Port Talbot, Rotherham, Corby and Shotton, and supports thousands of other jobs.

Mr Gupta told the BBC he would not be looking to make mass redundancies but said he could give no guarantees.

And he said he would look for government help in retraining some of the workforce. He has already indicated he sees the plant's future away from hot end, heavy steel-making.

Two other potential buyers: German Group ThyssenKrupp and investment firm Greybull have also been reported to be interested in acquiring parts of Tata's UK steel operations.

Tata Steel has said there is "no fixed timeline" for the sale process, but has stressed that urgency is needed to avoid "a long period of uncertainty" for employees and customers.

The steel industry crisis has been driven by falling prices and a global oversupply. In the UK, high energy costs and cheaper Chinese imports have exacerbated the issue.

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