January 10, 2018 / 12:21 PM / a month ago

Liberty House makes binding offer for Rio Tinto's French aluminium smelter

LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Liberty House, the industrial arm of British steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, said on Wednesday it had made a binding offer for miner Rio Tinto’s , aluminium smelter in Dunkerque, France, the largest in Europe.

The group did not disclose an offer price but said the move was part of a 2 billion euro ($2.4 billion) investment plan it had launched in France thanks in part to the pro-business environment created by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

Reuters first reported last December that Liberty House was considering a bid for the smelter, with sources valuing it at around 200 million euros.

Liberty’s offer triggers a statutory consultation with employees and other stakeholders and could, if successful, lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, both onsite and in the wider economy, the company said.

“This is GFG’s first significant step into continental Europe, which we hope to build on ... not only investing in aluminium, steel and automotive, but also bringing our other divisions including energy, banking and property development to explore opportunities in France and Europe,” said Gupta.

The GFG Alliance, a $10 billion metals, industrials and energy group, has been snapping up distressed industrial assets in Britain, Australia and the United States in the past few years.

Liberty House has spent hundreds of millions on acquisitions, including Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter in Scotland. The group has also approached Rio to buy its Australasian aluminium smelting unit, sources say.

Alf Barrios, Rio Tinto’s chief executive for aluminium said: “The binding offer ... represents the best option for the development of the site while also delivering value for Rio Tinto as we continue to streamline our portfolio.”

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, who took charge in July 2016, is moving to divest all but the company’s best-performing units.

Under the GFG Alliance, Gupta owns assets around the world that span steelmaking, aluminium smelting, engineering, renewable and non-renewable energy, commodities trading, shipping, property and finance.

Last year, the privately-owned GFG Alliance struck a deal with UK-based tidalpower firm Atlantis Resources to form a listed company, SIMEC Atlantis Energy, that marked Gupta’s first step onto the stock market.

Further such steps are expected this year, most likely the listing of a steel asset in the United States.

$1 = 0.8328 euros Reporting by Maytaal Angel

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