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Job fears as Tata moves to sell off Lisburn centre

By Margaret Canning

Tata Steel's Lisburn services centre is set to form part of a major sell-off by the Indian multi-national, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Tata is preparing to sell a significant division - including the Lisburn premises - to Greybull Capital.

The steel giant, which has maintained its Ireland services centre in Lisburn since 2007, said the move to sign a letter of intent over the sale of its Long Products division would lead to exclusive negotiations with the family-owned investment firm.

As well as the Lisburn centre, which employs 14 people, the prospective deal also covers other UK-based assets.

The other assets include the Scunthorpe steelworks, mills in Teesside and northern France, an engineering workshop in Workington, and a design consultancy in York.

It also includes Tata Steel's Scottish mills in Dalzell and Cambuslang, which are currently being mothballed.

Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he hoped the new owners would preserve employment in Lisburn.

"I have met Tata Steel on a number of occasions and would hope that I will be able to meet the new owners to urge on them the importance of keeping open the site in Lisburn," he added.

The Ireland service centre in Lisburn processes the company's flat and long products alike for selling on to third parties, but does not carry out any manufacturing.

Unions welcomed the announcement of Greybull Capital's interest, following a spate of job losses in the steel industry and fears for the future of Tata's Long Products business.

The Lisburn site was owned by British Steel - later Corus - up until 2007.

It is understood Greybull Capital does have plans to invest in the Tata Steel business.

And while the centre is part of the present discussions, a spokesman for Greybull said there was "no guarantee" about what structures would remain in the event of the division being bought.

Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel's European operations, added: "This is an extremely critical time for the whole industry and we have been working hard to explore all options that could provide a future for the Long Products Europe business.

"We will now move into detailed negotiations with Greybull Capital. It is too early to give any certainty about the potential outcome of these discussions.

"We will continue to work closely with our trade unions and works councils and will communicate any relevant news to employees on an ongoing basis.

"In the meantime, Tata Steel and our Long Products Europe business will continue to work closely with customers to deliver high-quality products."

About 4,700 people are employed at Long Products Europe and its distribution facilities.

Tata Steel Europe employs around 30,000 people across Europe, including about 17,000 in the UK.

Greybull Capital bought a majority stake in low-cost airline Monarch in 2014.

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