London: UK-based Indian steel tycoon Sanjeev 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, Britain’s largest employing some 4,000 people.
The 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 discuss with the British government plans to rescue the plants where thousands of jobs are at stake.
He will return here from Dubai on Monday to meet government officials and Tata to gauge their support for a proposal to keep Britain’s largest steel plant open.
On the question of acquiring the State Steel plants at Port Talbot, Mr Gupta was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph saying, “We would need a proper partnership with the Government. I don’t know what that would entail at this stage, We’ve started the discussions… we are in the process of starting a discussion with Tata.”
He has submitted preliminary proposals to the government to replace Port Talbot’s traditional blast furnaces with modern electric arc furnaces, used to produce raw steel by melting scrap.
According to Mr Gupta, the problem with Port Talbot is its size and the fact that it is built around blast furnace making liquid steel from ores. The model that Liberty is building at Newport and elsewhere is built around melting down scrap metal – two million tonnes a year at Newport – using modern electric arc furnaces.
Mr Gupta, who is best known in Wales for buying the former Alphasteel works in Newport in 2013 and re-opening production there last autumn, has recently bought Tata’s two rolling mills at Clydebridge and Dalzell in Scotland, facilitated by a temporary ‘nationalisation’ by the Scottish government.
Tata Steel stated on Saturday that although there was “no fixed timeline” for the sale process, “it needs to be implemented urgently as there are severe funding requirements affecting the UK operations”.
“I haven’t made a proposition that I want to buy all of (Tata Steel UK) because that’s too big an undertaking to even put on the table at the stage. If the company, its people, its workers and the Government would be willing to consider my suggestions then I’m willing to engage in a discussion about what role we will play in that,” Mr Gupta said.
Tata Steel UK is losing more than 1 million pounds a day and on Tuesday, the firm’s parent company announced it would try to sell all or parts of its operations around the country.
The government, which has been fiercely criticised for its slow response to the crisis, is against nationalising the assets.
Mr Gupta, who currently lives in the UK, was born in Punjab where his father owned a number of businesses including Victor cycles. Since 1992, he has grown Liberty House into a business with a turnover of $4.2 million employing more than 2,000 around the world.