Management buy-out hope for Hartlepool steel jobs

Hartlepool's Tata Steel site

Hartlepool's Tata Steel site

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A rival bid has emerged for Tata Steel's UK operation, including its Hartlepool site.

Excalibur Steel UK Limited has been established with the aim of leading a management buyout of Tata Steel Europe and has confirmed it has registered a letter of intent expressing its formal interest.

The Mail revealed yesterday that commodities trading firm Liberty House is also putting in a formal bid to buy the business.Tata employs 500 people at its Hartlepool plant.

Stuart Wilkie, chief executive of Excalibur and previously the hub director of Tata Steel's Strip Products, UK, said: "This project has made enormous advances in a very short period. It was only two weeks ago we made the decision to pursue a buyout that enables the management and staff to take a stake in the ownership and operation of a strategic British industry.

"We believe we have a large number of the pieces in place required to make this a success, including a management team with vast experience of steel making and processing. We are confident we can turn the business around and sustain profitable steel-making in the United Kingdom, including both the down-stream and up-stream operations."

Liberty House, the commodities trading firm, headed by Sanjeev Gupta, was first to express an interest after the Indian conglomerate announced the shock decision to dispose of its loss-making UK business.

Alan Hooper, 52, who works in the control room at Port Talbot's Blast Furnace 5, described the events of the past few weeks as tough.

"We've all been a bit nervy," he said.

"I've worked here for over 25 years and there's nowhere else for me to go. There's plenty of others in the same boat as me.

"I'm still optimistic they will find a buyer. We're hard working and highly skilled and make the best steel in the world. That's got to be worth something."

Martin Brunnock, technical director at Port Talbot, said ensuring the works was a money-making operation was a big challenge but an achievable one.

"We've had our bridging plan in place for some time now, which is about hitting specific targets as well as creating value down-stream.

"The plan is working and we are hitting our targets every week and every month.

"I think that can give confidence to prospective buyers.

"Yes, the heavy end is important but it's also important for our customers that we have an undisrupted supply chain.""