Tata Steel in Venture Talks With Thyssenkrupp on Europe Business

  • Company to start separate sale of specialty steel, pipe mill
  • Indian steelmaker looking for alternatives after Brexit vote

Vapor rises from cooling towers at the steel works operated by Tata Steel in Port Talbot, U.K.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Tata Steel Ltd. has entered into talks with companies including Germany’s Thyssenkrupp AG on a possible joint venture in Europe, after reviewing bids on the U.K. assets that the Indian steelmaker had planned to sell.

Talks are preliminary, the Mumbai-based company said in a statement after a board meeting Friday. Tata said the asset bids were considered on the basis of their commercial value and “prospects for the future sustainability of the U.K. business for a range of stakeholders,” as well as the uncertainties caused by the U.K. referendum last month.

“Taking the above issues into account, the board of Tata Steel has decided to also look at alternative and more sustainable portfolio solutions for the European businesses,” the company said in the statement.

Tata announced in March that it planned to sell U.K. operations including the Port Talbot facility in South Wales after years of losses, putting 15,000 jobs at risk and provoking a political storm in Britain. The company is seeking to pare debt by selling the assets, which have been crippled by high energy costs and a glut of steel on the world market emanating from China, the biggest producer.

Tata said Friday it will also start separate processes for the potential sale of its South Yorkshire-based specialty steels business and the Hartlepool pipe mills in the U.K., for which it has received interest from several bidders, it said.

Brexit Vote

At least four bidders pulled out of the process for the U.K operations due to concern over the viability of the operations after the Brexit vote, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The assets had attracted interest from at least seven potential buyers including India’s JSW Steel Ltd. and Hebei Iron & Steel Group, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

"A potential strategic combination of strip products businesses offers the best prospects to create a premium, world-class strip steel business with the scale and scope of capabilities to compete successfully on the global stage," Koushik Chatterjee, group executive director, said in the statement Friday.

Industrial Base

The U.K. government, under pressure to protect jobs amid accusations that it has neglected the nation’s industrial base, has said it would provide assistance with the sale and offer support to buyers. Tata Steel may decide to keep the assets if the government offered a bailout and helped ease its pension liabilities, one of the people said. The company’s U.K. pension plan may have a deficit of as much as 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion), according to parliamentary minutes.

Chatterjee said whether the talks produce results and include the U.K. business in the potential joint venture depends on “several issues,” including finding a suitable outcome for the British Steel Pension Scheme, successful discussions with the U.K. trade unions and the delivery of policy initiatives and other support from the governments of the U.K. and Wales.

Liberty House Group and Excalibur Steel, a buyout team led by a Tata executive, have studied buying the assets, according to people familiar with the matter.

Other bidders include Greybull Capital LLP, which agreed in April to buy Tata Steel assets in northern England and France; U.S. steel giant Nucor Corp.; and U.K. fund Endless, according to reports.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.