LONDON — Battered by low prices for its product, Indian group Tata Steel said Tuesday that it will enter talks over selling struggling facilities in Britain and France to investment firm Greybull Capital.
“This is an extremely critical time for the whole industry, and we have been working hard to explore all options that could provide a future for the Long Products Europe business,” Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, said in a company statement. “We will now move into detailed negotiations with Greybull Capital. It is too early to give any certainty about the potential outcome of these discussions.”
Tata is looking at offloading steelworks, mills, an engineering workshops and design consultancy that are all based in northern England. It also wants to sell mills in Scotland that are currently mothballed, as well as a mill in northern France.
Unions welcomed the development but cautioned that various hurdles remained.
“Of course the devil will be in the detail ... and we will be seeking further discussions with both Tata Steel and Greybull to fully understand their intentions,” said Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community steelworkers’ union.
Unite national officer Harish Patel said that while it “is good pre-Christmas news for the various sites. ... We will need to consider whether jobs are safe with this potential sale.”
Tata announced in October that it would cut around 1,200 jobs at two plants in Britain, blaming the move in part on cheap steel imports from China.
About 4,700 people are employed at Long Products Europe and its distribution facilities, Tata said in Tuesday’s statement. Across all its businesses, Tata Steel Europe employs about 30,000 people, including some 17,000 in Britain.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015