MPs will today (Tuesday) hold a three-hour emergency meeting to debate the steel crisis after the business secretary said the government could "co-invest with a buyer".
Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle called for the debate after complaining that the government refused to recall to Parliament from its Easter break to discuss the crisis.
Tata Steel yesterday sold part of its UK business, including the Scunthorpe plant, to City investment firm Greybull Capital for £1. But a buyer is still needed for the rest of the business, including the main Port Talbot steelworks.
The Long Products Europe business was sold to Greybull Capital for just £1 or €1, with the investment firm promising a £400 million investment package. The business, which supplies steel to the UK's rail and construction industries, will be re-branded to British Steel when the takeover is complete. Greybull Capital says it does not expect to make more job cuts than those already announced by Tata in October.
The government has so far resisted calls to take the Port Talbot state ownership, insisting it is not the best long-term solution. But speaking to the House of Commons yesterday, business secretary Sajid Javid said there was the "possibility of co-investing with a buyer on commercial terms".
Tata Steel is known to be looking for a quick sale, with the Port Talbot plant alone losing an estimated £1m a day. Mr Javid has assured workers, unions and government that the Indian company would be a "responsible seller", but the move to open the possibility of "co-investing" could mean the government needs to intervene to prevent the plant from closing.
Only one potential buyer is known publicly - commodities firm Liberty House - but Tata says there are others interested. Liberty House boss Sanjeev Gupta has said that he feels "passionately about this and would like to do it, but I am not married to it".
Koushik Chatterjee, group executive director of Tata Steel, said: “There has been a lot of people who have expressed interest, and we are aware of some of the interest that you refer to in the media. But today is a good time where our advisers will now start reaching out, and it is not a few people. I don’t want to give a number, but it is in tens, many tens actually.”
Mr Chatterjee also insisted that Tata wants to sell its UK steel business as one entity, rather than selling-off different parts to different buyers. He said: “Our current proposition is to sell 100% of the equity ownership in Tata Steel UK.
“When we approach the buyers we are approaching the buyers with this premise – that what is on offer is 100% equity of Tata Steel UK. If somebody comes back with a specific plant or a site or part of the business, that is our call at that point of time, depending on what the other interests are.”