Liberty Steel founder reassures Hartlepool workers as he reveals company owes ‘many billions’
Liberty Steel’s founder has reassured workers over the future of their jobs after the company’s lenders filed for administration in March.
The founder of Liberty Steel, Sanjeev Gupta, has said none of its steel plants – including its site in Hartlepool’s Brenda Road – would be shut down “under my watch” and pledged that the company will find “solutions” to its financial challenges.
It comes as the lenders of Liberty Steel, Greensill Capital, filed for administration in early March, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on April 1 about the firm’s immediate future, Mr Gupta acknowledged there were some challenges in the steel sector like “high energy prices” but said the business had built its own energy plants to supply renewable energy to its operations.
He said: “Our overall global operations are profitable, we have refinancing offers, we will refinance and we will support our UK business also.
“None of my steel plants under my watch will be shut down.”
Around 250 people are said to be employed at the Brenda Road site.
Mr Gupta also revealed the company owes “many billions” to collapsed financial backer Greensill Capital – the firm under scrutiny over the role former prime minister David Cameron played in lobbying on its behalf.
When asked about reports that it faced “winding-up petitions” against some its UK companies that it could not afford to pay, Mr Gupta replied: “It is natural to some degree that lenders want to protect their own position.
“But we also have our position. We have committed facilities from Greensill for three years. According to us, these debts are not due.”
He said there were “positive discussions” with the administrator for Greensill, adding: “It makes no sense for them or any of the creditors to destroy jobs, but, more importantly, to destroy value, because that is the value which will give them the recovery.
“I’m very confident that we will find short-term solutions through our own efforts and will find long-term solutions through refinancing.”
Mr Gupta added that Liberty Steel was “currently enjoying one of the best markets in steel and aluminium” and its recent efforts to make “efficiency gains” were paying “good results”.
“So, as a result, actually, we have a huge amount of interest from new financiers who are willing to back us,” Mr Gupta said.
“Of course, given the situation, this sort of thing takes time and hence we need to find short-term solutions. But we’re not waiting for anybody. We’ve taken matters into our own hands.”
Liberty Steel, which owns 12 plants, acquired the Hartlepool steel pipe mills, which manufacture pipeline for the international oil and gas industry, from Tata Steel in the summer of 2017.
Mr Gupta’s business empire employs around 5,000 people in the UK, a majority of whom work for Liberty Steel.