August 16, 2019 @ 12:27 by Steven Hugill
Hopes over the futures of hundreds of North East British Steel workers have been raised after a potential buyer was found for the business.
Ataer Holdings is in talks to buy Britain’s second largest steelmaker, which collapsed into compulsory liquidation in May.
A Government-appointed official receiver, who has been overseeing British Steel’s continued operation, says a sale to Ataer Holdings, a steelmaking subsidiary of the Turkish military pension fund, could be completed in the “coming weeks.”
British Steel was founded out of Tata Steel’s Long Products division when former owner, the investor Greybull Capital, paid India’s Tata £1 for the operation.
It employs around 700 workers in the North East, where its sites include the Teesside Beam Mill, near Redcar, a special profiles factory, in Skinningrove, east Cleveland, and a site in Blaydon.
The Official Receiver said: “Following discussions with a number of potential purchasers for the British Steel group over the past few weeks, I am pleased to say I have now received an acceptable offer from Ataer Holdings for the purchase of the whole business and I am now focusing on finalising the sale.
“I will be looking to conclude this process in the coming weeks, during which time British Steel continues to trade and supply its customers as normal.
“I would like to thank all employees, suppliers and customers for their continued support which has been essential to get to this point.”
Reacting to the news, Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, said confirmation of Ataer Holdings’ interest represents a promising step, however, he warned assurances must be forthcoming about the operator’s long-term plans.
He said: “This is an important milestone, and will be hugely encouraging to the workforce and all those connected with British Steel.
“But we should be clear this is not yet a done deal and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.
“We now expect to engage with Ataer to understand and scrutinise their plans for the business.
“We will want to be assured Ataer has a long-term strategy to invest in the assets and develop the business going forward. Government of course has a key role to play in supporting that strategy.
“We will also want to discuss how Ataer proposes to re-engage the workforce at British Steel under the new company.
“The high-quality jobs of the existing workforce must be secured to support the families in the North East that depend on British Steel for their livelihoods.”