Tata to consider all expressions of interest amid management buyout possibility
Steel giant Tata said it will consider all expressions of interest in buying its loss-making UK business as a management buyout emerged as a potential saviour of thousands of jobs.
Stuart Wilkie, managing director of Tata's Strip Products, based in Port Talbot in south Wales, is understood to have canvassed workers about joining a bid.
The investment he is seeking from employees could be as much as £10,000 each, according to sources. Private investors and government support would also be needed.
Business minister Anna Soubry and Wales' Economy Minister Edwina Hart will take part in a meeting in Brussels on Thursday called by the European Steel Association to discuss the crisis gripping the industry.
First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said he had spoken to Stuart Wilkie to discuss a management buyout option.
"I made it clear that we stand ready to support any bid that will keep the steel industry alive in Wales, and we agreed to a meeting as soon as possible to discuss this option in more detail.
" The Indian conglomerate announced three weeks ago that it was selling its UK assets."
Thousands of jobs are in the balance at Tata plants across the country as well as in firms supplying the business.
Mr Wilkie was one of those behind a survival plan for Tata's UK steel business which was rejected by the board in India.
The business is losing £1 million a day and although Tata has not set a deadline for the sale, time is tight for a buyer to agree a deal.
Up to now, Liberty has been the only firm to express a public interest in buying the business.
Liberty's executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said he would consider taking it on only if the price was low and insisted he was not so attached to the idea that he could not walk away.
Tata said in a statement: " To deliver greater clarity for all key stakeholders such as employees, customers and suppliers, Tata Steel Europe is committed to seeking all credible options in an urgent manner.
"As announced on April 18 this process had already resulted in the advisers to Tata Steel Europe beginning the initial exploration of interest in Tata Steel's UK operations with 190 potential financial and industrial investors worldwide. More detailed information sharing will commence this week as the process moves into the confidential phase.
"Tata Steel Europe welcomes credible expressions of interest for Tata Steel's UK operations. It is our policy that we are not naming, confirming or commenting on any potentially interested investor or bidder at this point.
"All expressions of interest, including any management buyout proposals, will be considered when received. In the interests of all stakeholders every credible expression of interest will enter the same rigorous assessment process to ensure the best value and prospects of sustainability."
David Cameron said the Government was committed to supporting the company during the sales process.
"Right now we are talking with the board of Tata to make sure that all the questions they need answered are answered by us because we want to have a proper sales process with proper buyers coming forward," he told MPs at Prime Minister's questions.
"We want to be very clear that the Government is prepared to support that process and support the outcome and that's exactly what we will do."
A spokesman for the Community union said: "We welcome interest from all credible potential new owners. We are aware of reports that a management buyout is under consideration and would expect discussions with anyone considering leading such an initiative.
"We are still in the very early stages of the sales process; however, it is clear that significant interest in the business exists from a number of different potential buyers. This is a sign that a long-term, profitable future for the industry is entirely possible."