Tata Steel sale deal saves 72 jobs at risk in Lisburn
More than 70 jobs have been secured in Lisburn following the sale of part of the huge Tata steelworks business.
The Indian conglomerate announced the signing of an agreement to sell its Long Products Europe business, including its plant in Scunthorpe, to investment firm Greybull Capital.
The division, which is to be renamed British Steel, employs around 4,400 people in the UK, the majority of whom are based at its Scunthorpe plant.
It also employs 72 workers at its service centre in Lisburn, which has been based in Co Antrim since 2007.
A spokeswoman for Tata confirmed that its "associated distribution facilities in the UK and Ireland" were included in the overall sale. The Lisburn centre is part of that business.
The news was welcomed by the DUP's Jonathan Craig, who is running for re-election for Lagan Valley in the upcoming Assembly elections.
"It has been a very worrying time for all the employees of Tata Steel," he said.
"I welcome the fact that a deal has been put together to save one part of the company and the part based in Lagan Valley.
"The last thing we need is people losing employment, and it's difficult enough to get employment, especially in an industry such as steel.
"It's good to see the jobs secured at this point, and I look forward to further talks after the election with the new owners of Tata."
The overall sale covers several UK-based assets including the Scunthorpe steelworks, two mills in Teesside, an engineering workshop in Workington, a design consultancy in York and associated distribution facilities, as well as a mill in northern France.
The deal will be completed once a number of outstanding conditions have been resolved, including transfer of contracts, certain government approvals and the satisfactory completion of financing arrangements.
Bimlendra Jha, executive chairman of the Long Products Europe business, said: "Today marks a significant milestone in the sale of the Long Products Europe business.
"This sale is the best possible outcome for employees who have worked relentlessly to ensure the business's survival who have and helped to make it attractive to a potential buyer."
Hans Fischer, chief executive of Tata Steel's European operations, added: "Under these current challenging market conditions in Europe with the soaring levels of imports from China, we are happy that Tata Steel UK and Greybull Capital have entered the final stage of completion of the sale of shareholding in Longs Steel UK."
Union members at Scunthorpe are currently being balloted on whether to accept a 3% cut in pay and reductions in pension contributions for a year to smooth the path for the deal, with the result due next week.
Dave Hulse, national officer of the GMB union, said: "These have been really difficult times for GMB members over many months of uncertainty.
"GMB welcomes the announcement that Greybull Capital has reached an agreement with Tata Steel that safeguards our members' jobs, especially given the recent announcement that Tata will sell its entire UK operation.
"The trade unions have been in negotiations over a long period of time, looking at temporary agreements to make sure that the first 12 months of the sale are successful."
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK and Welsh governments were still working to reach a deal on Tata's sites at Port Talbot, Wales. But he added: "This agreement sends positive signals to any potential investor for the rest of Tata's UK business."