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Tata to consider bids for UK steel business but process ongoing

Published 25/05/2016

A shortlist of bidders is being compiled for Tata's UK assets as hundreds of steelworkers march in London
A shortlist of bidders is being compiled for Tata's UK assets as hundreds of steelworkers march in London

Tata will consider the bids for its UK business but the process is still ongoing, its executive director has said.

Koushik Chatterjee told a news conference in Mumbai that the company had identified short-listed bidders, but they needed to be evaluated.

He would not give a rundown of the firms which have made bids, but said some had sought clarifications.

The management buyout team bidding to purchase the UK assets has made it clear it is working alone rather than in conjunction with another group.

There have been reports that Excalibur has met officials from Liberty House about a possible link-up.

Excalibur said in a statement: "Excalibur Steel UK Ltd was created as an entity to manage the financing of an employee and management-led buyout of Tata Steel UK Ltd.

"Recent media speculation has suggested that Excalibur is not pursuing this objective independently. This is incorrect. Excalibur is working alone and is not currently contemplating acting in conjunction with any third party."

Hundreds of steelworkers from across the UK marched through Westminster to keep up the pressure on Tata and the Government to save the crisis-hit industry.

They chanted "Save Our Steel" as they walked past Parliament.

Mr Chatterjee said that as a "responsible" company, Tata fully understood how the process worked, describing the position as an "ongoing sale."

The board will consider the next step and how the bids stack up in terms of ranking.

"We have identified short listed bidders which we need to evaluate."

Mr Chaterjee said Tata continued to work closely with the UK government. Business secretary Sajid Javid has travelled to Mumbai to meet Tata officials, while Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones is also in the city talking to the company in a sign of how important steel is to Wales.

Mr Chatterjee said: "We are running a credible process, working with the Government. Each step has been done with a lot of careful consideration. We need to consider these bids, understand who wants what, and how, and understand the implications for Tata."

Tata will engage with the bidders "in due course", said Mr Chatterjee, adding: "It is not done until it is done."

He maintained that good progress was being made and insisted Tata did not want to delay the process.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the workers' march and said his party was doing everything it could to support the steel industry.

"We have to secure enough time to make sure the industry has a future. The industry is strong and the workers are incredibly skilled. It cannot be allowed to go to the wall."

Workers said the future was uncertain.

Kevin Faulkner, who works at a Tata plant near Wolverhampton, said: "There are mixed feelings about all the bidders, to be honest. They would all have a different impact on the workers.

"Obviously we are also worried about what will happen to our pensions. "

Jason Bartlett, who works at a Tata tin plate site at Trostre, South Wales, said: "The mood everywhere is one of uncertainty. We don't know what the future holds. We have seen difficult times in this industry and the impact of previous job losses has been devastating."

Unite leader Len McCluskey said: "Nothing has been resolved yet, but the strong campaigning from the workforce has at least made the Government think again and now have a much more positive approach.

"The fact that the Government is prepared to invest 25% in the business should give confidence to potential bidders - and it might even result in Tata reversing its original decision.

"We await the news from Tata, but our fight goes on to secure the steel industry for the sake of manufacturing and the country's industrial strategy.

"We also want Tata to be a responsible seller - and any buyer must be responsible too."

Dave Hulse, of the GMB, said: " This march was an opportunity for all unions to send a clear message that we need a long term strategy to support our industry and safeguard vital jobs.

"We expect Tata to sell to a responsible buyer, in it for the long term. We don't want to be back in this position in 12 months' time."

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