India's Tata Steel yet to shortlist bids for UK assets

25th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

India's Tata Steel said on Wednesday it had yet to shortlist any bidders for the sale of its loss-making British assets but that it hoped to close a deal soon.

The Indian firm, Britain's biggest steel employer, announced earlier this year that it planned to sell its Port Talbot plant in Wales and other assets, putting 15,000 jobs at risk.

Tata Steel held a board meeting in India's financial capital Mumbai on Wednesday, two days after a deadline passed for interested parties to submit bids to acquire its struggling British steelworks.

"We are evaluating offers. We would like to figure out how many bidders we would take along to the next stage based on the bids they gave," group executive director Koushik Chatterjee told reporters.

Chatterjee refused to identify the bidders, or how many there are, stressing that Tata Steel was in the "confidential phase" of the sale process.

Earlier this month the company said it had selected seven bidders to proceed to the next stage, without naming them.

Metal processing company Liberty House has previously expressed interest and a management buyout team under the name Excalibur is also believed to be in the running.

"We hope to close the deal shortly and have made good progress with constructive meetings with board members," Chatterjee added, as he announced Tata Steel's Q4 quarterly earnings.

Tata Steel posted a net loss of 32.1 billion rupees ($477 million) in the three months to March 31, from a loss of 56.7 billion rupees a year earlier.

"The UK steel operations continued to be exposed to volatile currency and low priced imports into the country," Tata Steel said in a statement.

"The Tata Steel Europe Board under the advise of the Tata Steel Board is actively reviewing all options for the Tata Steel UK Business including a potential sale of the business," it added.

Tata Steel said in March it was selling 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.

The move heaped pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron's government, which has been racing to find a buyer to safeguard the iconic British steel industry, which dates back to the 19th century.

Britain's business minister Sajid Javid held discussions about the sale with Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry in Mumbai late Tuesday.

"Met Tata in Mumbai today to discuss #steel sales process. Several credible bidders in play. Determined to keep momentum & find right buyer," Javid wrote on Twitter after the meeting.

© 2016 AFP

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