New Delhi: British steel is not doing well, and that is by far an understatement. The industry, which was once the backbone of the UK economy, has been in progressive decline since the global economic crisis of 2008, when demand for steel fell sharply. Even more so recently, when a combination of factors, including falling prices, rising costs and increased competition from cheap Chinese imports, hit the industry hard. The downfall of Britain’s steel industry has also resulted in over 5,000 jobs being lost.
It was in this backdrop that Tata Steel Ltd announced earlier this week that it was seeking to sell its British business, following a board meeting in Mumbai. The company, which entered the UK (and Europe) through a takeover of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group Plc. in 2007, has seen several efforts at restructuring over the last 10 years.
One man, Sanjeev Kumar Gupta or SKG as he’s known in British industry circles, wants to “save British steel”. Last week, Gupta made headlines when he agreed to buy two of Tata Steel’s Scottish assets—long-products plants in Clydebridge and Dalzell. In November last year, Gupta bought Caparo Tubular Solutions, part of Lord Swaraj Paul’s Caparo Industries, soon after it fell into administration. Gupta’s intervention saw nearly 350 jobs being saved, according to news reports at the time. Prior to that, in 2013, Gupta was instrumental in Liberty House’s acquisition of Mir Steel (formerly Alphasteel) unit in Newport, South Wales. The mothballed 40-year-old plant at Newport was reopened for production last year, two years after it was acquired.
Earlier this week, Gupta was quoted as saying by theFinancial Times that he would be “interested in some of Tata’s steel processing businesses, though the situation remained unclear.”
Born in Punjab into a business family before moving to the UK in his teens, the 44-year-old Gupta is the chief executive of Liberty House Group, a global commodities company, which operates from London, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong, and, according to the Guardian, “has a turnover of about $6bn”. Gupta founded Liberty House as a metal trading company in 1992 from his student flat while at Cambridge University, where he studied economics and management. Today, the company has around 30 offices globally, and employs over 1,000 people. His father, P.K. Gupta, whose businesses once included Victor Cycles, is also chairman of Simec, an international trading group whose operations cover shipping, industrial, mining, energy and commodities.