Tata bids being finalised as efforts continue to save steel plants
Bids forÂ TataÂ Steel's UK business are being finalised ahead of a crucial week for the crisis-hit industry and the job prospects of thousands of workers.
That includes 500 staff at its Hartlepool site.
Seven bids were expected to be made before today's deadline, although there is speculation that up to two companies which had expressed an interest will pull out.
The two favourites, Liberty House and management buyout group Excalibur, are believed to have held talks about their bids.
It is understood the two will make separate bids today and there have been no formal merger talks.
But representatives from the two sides have met, raising the prospect of a link-up beforeTata makes a final decision.
The Indian conglomerate's board will meet in Mumbai on Wednesday and is expected to draw up a short list of up to three before making a final decision.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid is travelling to Mumbai ahead of the meeting.
The Government has pledged support for the business, taking a stake of up to 25% to smooth the sale process.
Steel workers from across the country will stage a march in central London on Wednesday to keep up pressure on the Government and Tata to help save jobs at plants, including the country's biggest steelworks at Port Talbot in south Wales.
Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said: "Today is a crucial day for UK steel, a vital strategic industry. We sincerely hope a suitable bid can be found which preserves the blast furnaces, the 15,000 high-skill jobs, and our domestic steel-making capacity.
"But the Tory Government must address the underlying challenges to the industry - on energy, business rates, procurement, and most importantly, preventing Chinese dumping.
"The Government must stop kow-towing to China and start standing up for our steel."