Sanjeev Gupta meets UK minister, awaits Tata’s formal sale process

Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, a potential bidder for some of Tata Steel’s UK assets, said he is waiting for the Tata Group to initiate a formal sale process for its steel plants in Port Talbot, which employs about 4,000 people.

Gupta, executive chairman of commodity trading group Liberty House Group, met Britain’s business minister Sajid Javid on Tuesday.

“I am pleased to report that we had a positive meeting today. UK government appears highly supportive and is proactively engaged in finding a long-term solution. We have also actively engaged with Welsh government and again we are encouraged by their approach,” Gupta said in a statement.

Gupta further said the next step for Tata Steel is to define the formal sales process and request interest from potential buyers.

“We await further details on this and then will assess our own next step,” he said.

Gupta has come to the rescue of the troubled Tata Steel by opening discussions with owners of the steel giant to acquire its plants at Port Talbot.

The 44-year-old founder of steel, commodities and property group Liberty House, who has already saved a number of UK plants from closure, has said he is ready to hold discussions with the British government for rescuing the plants where thousands of jobs are at stake.

Gupta said Liberty has already proven its ability to build value from UK steel assets with the firm’s acquisition of a Newport steel plant, engineering operations in the Midlands and most recently in Scotland, where it acquired mills from Tata Steel.

“Everyone is very motivated to find a solution,” Gupta added.

Last week, Tata Steel said it will look to sell full or a partial stake in its steel assets in the UK. The combined capacity in the UK is close to 7 million tonnes (mt) of the total 13 mt of steel-making capacity the company holds across Europe.

The situation has come to a head almost a decade after Tata Steel acquired Corus Group Plc for $12.9 billion in 2007, in what was then Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata’s most ambitious acquisition. However, the European operations soon took a hit due to the financial crisis in 2008 and has been a financial drag on Tata Steel ever since. The company has taken impairments worth £2 billion on the asset in the last five years.

Matters reached a crisis level due to the recent fall in global commodity prices, a slowdown in demand in the UK and the growing influx of cheaper imports into that country.

Javid is rushing to Mumbai to hold talks with Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry in an effort to save the British steel industry on Wednesday.