Union chiefs have welcomed potential interest in Hartlepool’s steel plant from a company which could be set to finalise a rescue deal.
Liberty House is believed to be nearing an agreement to take over Tata Steel’s Brenda Road site in the town, excluding the 20-inch mill.
Liberty declined to comment on the reports but sources within the industry indicated to the Hartlepool Mail that talks were at an advanced stage.
They said the discussions were likely to mean security for hundreds of town steelworkers whose futures were hanging in the balance.
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union, welcomed the interest and said: “Hartlepool’s steelworkers make some of the best steel pipe in the world. We welcome all credible interest in the business, but any new owner must be committed to investing in the future of the industry and ensuring that steel products continue to be made in Hartlepool and across the UK.”
A Tata Steel spokesman said: “Discussions are ongoing with a number of interested parties regarding the separate sales processes of Tata Steel’s South Yorkshire-based Speciality Steels business and the Hartlepool pipe mills (other than the 20-inch Tube Mill) since our announcement on July 8.
“An initial shortlist of bidders have been given the opportunity to meet with management and conduct site visits, as well as having access to information to assist in performing due diligence.
“The process is ongoing and we will provide a further update at an appropriate point.”
Just last month, Tata indicated that it was planning to sell its speciality steel business, which employs 2,000 workers in Hartlepool, Rotherham and Stocksbridge.
Liberty has already bought two Scottish mills from Tata earlier this year.
Liberty House Group is an international commodities and industrial business that works in areas such as engineering products for the automotive, aerospace and defence industries.
Industry experts have indicated that Hartlepool’s mills would be seen by Liberty as a key facility to support the growth of its steel industry.
They also indicated that the Brenda Road site could be used to process plate which had been made at mills in Scotland.
The site in Hartlepool is thought to employ around 500 people.
Liberty is expecting to restart steel plate production at the Dalzell plate mill at Motherwell next month.
Plate steel from the plant is used by a wide variety of industries including ship building, heavy vehicle manufacture, construction and wind power generation.
The future of the steel industry in the UK has been the subject of speculation for months after continued falls in the European steel price was caused by a flood of cheap imports.