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Tata deal with Liberty House saves 1,700 UK steel jobs

Five British sites saved from closure and 300 more jobs created in £100m spin-off of speciality steels business

Tata Steel has completed the £100m sale of its speciality steels business to Liberty House, safeguarding 1,700 jobs and creating 300 more in the north of England.

The deal secures the future of five UK sites in Rotherham, Stocksbridge and Brinsworth in south Yorkshire, as well as smaller sites in Bolton, Lancashire, and Wednesbury in the West Midlands. It also includes two distribution centres in China.

Liberty House, the metals company run by tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, said it would invest up to £20m in new plant and equipment over the next year to boost competitiveness and overseas growth.

Gupta said the deal represented “a big vote of confidence in the future of British industry”.

He added: “With the right business model and an innovative approach, the UK steel and engineering sectors can recover and thrive. The government is now pursuing a new post-Brexit industrial strategy and steel must be at the heart of that strategy.

“The speciality steels business is a global leader in its field, with a highly-skilled and well-motivated workforce and we are eager to invest so it can grow and achieve its full potential.”

The additional 300 roles will be production jobs at the south Yorkshire sites. Liberty said it would increase output significantly at the electric arc furnaces, casting shop and bar mill in Rotherham, with “bigger plans” across the wider business in the coming years.

Roy Rickhuss, the general secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ trade union, welcomed the deal: “The completion of the sale will bring some welcome certainty to a workforce that has faced a tough time over recent months and years. It demonstrates that with the right vision there are opportunities for the UK steel industry to grow.”

Tony Brady, the national officer at the union Unite, said the deal brought to an end “months of agonising uncertainty” for workers. “This is a workforce which has done everything asked of them over the last few years to give speciality steelmaking a fighting chance in the UK. Liberty House’s commitments on jobs and new investment are a welcome recognition of the skills of a dedicated workforce.”

India’s Tata put the business up for sale last year after reviewing its struggling UK operations, which also include Britain’s largest steelworks in Port Talbot, south Wales.

Bimlendra Jha, the chief executive of Tata Steel in the UK, said the company had invested in the specialist steels business in recent years, giving it a “sustainable future”.

The business will be known as Liberty Speciality Steels, with Jon Boulton appointed as chief executive. The acquisition makes Liberty one of the biggest steel and engineering employers in the UK with more than 4,500 workers.

Boulton has about 30 years’ experience in the steel industry and joined Liberty in early 2016. He said he was confident about future prospects for the newly acquired business: “Through increased output and improved positions in the UK, North American and EU markets, the business can improve its competitiveness and re-establish itself as a global force in the supply of engineering steels.

“We will be running the business with greater focus and a strong vision and will be capitalising on recent investment in state-of-the-art steel-making facilities to strengthen our position in technically challenging markets.”

Tata is in talks with the Pension Regulator to try and find a solution for its troubled pension scheme, necessary to secure the future of its UK operations, which employs about 8,500 workers.

Source : The Guardian