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UK opens talks for Tata steel deal

Wednesday, April 06, 2016 - 01:37

The British government has opened talks with potential buyers for Tata Steel UK's operations, including Sanjeev Gupta's commodities company Liberty Group. David Pollard reports.

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If these were smoke signals coming out of the chimneys of Port Talbot, they'd surely be screaming: SOS. 15,000 jobs are on the line as Tata moves to sell its UK steel making plants - around 4,000 at this plant in Wales. And if this is the man to save them - Liberty Group's Sanjeev Gupta - then any deal will come with conditions for all involved. SOUNDBITE (English) SANJEEV GUPTA, FOUNDER, LIBERTY GROUP, SAYING: "The workforce we're down to now is an efficient and sustainable workforce. It will need retraining, because if we're going to transition from blast furnaces to arc furnaces, they're different process that require different skills, so there will be a need for retaining and for operating on a slightly more flexible basis than is currently done." Not only that - but Gupta may also, it's reported, insist on the UK government and Tata picking up the liabilities of a 15 billion pound pension scheme. And could demand exemption from green energy costs. But after its meeting with Gupta, the UK government appears keen on a deal. Its business minister dispatched to Mumbai for talks with Tata. SOUNDBITE (English) SAJID JAVID, UK BUSINESS MINISTER, SAYING: "This meeting ... it will be with Cyrus Mistry who is chairman of the whole Tata group. And what I want to achieve mostly out of that is to have a final agreement on the sales process." Most economists are hard-nosed about the prospects for Britain's steel industry. Amid high energy costs, high taxes and a high surplus of imports from China, the Port Talbot plant alone is losing an estimated one million pounds day. But it's still one of this region's biggest employers. Its workers facing an anxious wait until their fate is decided.

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UK opens talks for Tata steel deal

Wednesday, April 06, 2016 - 01:37