MUMBAI: India’s Tata Group will begin the process of selling its British steel assets by Monday, a British minister said on Wednesday after talks with the firm in Mumbai, adding that there was no set timeframe for its completion.
British Business Secretary Sajid Javid said his government would do “all it can to help secure a serious buyer” for the Port Talbot plant in Wales and other assets, where 15,000 jobs have been put at risk by Tata’s plans to sell.
“They will start the formal sales process by Monday but they have also not set a formal timeframe,” Javid said after his meeting with Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry.
“What they have said is that they will allow a reasonable amount of time for this process to be completed.”
Describing the meeting as “constructive and positive,” he said: “I’ve made it clear that the UK government will do anything it can to support any serious buyer in every way we can to secure the long-term future of this industry.”
Javid said “a number” of people had expressed an interest in the steel business but added: “I think more will do so once the formal process begins.”
Sanjeev Gupta, the boss of steel and metals company Liberty House, is the only buyer who has publicly expressed an interest so far, and he said Wednesday that his plans are only in the very early stages.
“It’s a very daunting proposition, I’m not suggesting that it’s easy . . . it’s going to require a lot of analysis,” he told the BBC.
Tata Steel said it was selling off its loss-making British assets due to a global oversupply of steel, cheap imports into Europe from countries including China, high costs and currency volatility.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has been racing to find a buyer amid growing pressure from the opposition, trade unions and the press to safeguard the iconic British steel industry which dates back to the 19th century.
It is also working on a plan to take on some pension liabilities and reduce energy costs to make a deal more attractive to a potential buyer.