With the Tata Steel agreeing to sell its Scunthorpe steel plant in the UK to investment firm Greybull for a nominal one pound, the storied ‘British Steel’ name will be back in the now-ailing industry.
Way back in 1967, 14 major steel producers in Britain had come together to form British Steel Corporation (BSC) as part of nationalisation efforts to reshape a vital industry after years of insufficient capital investment.
After suffering huge losses and facing labour troubles for years, followed by closure of several plants, BSC made a significant turnaround in 1980s. The government subsequently announced privatisation of BSC in 1987 and its assets were transferred to a newly-created company named ‘British Steel’ a year later.
British Steel then merged with Koninklijke Hoogovens in 1999 to form Corus, which emerged over the years as a major global player in the steel industry and was eventually acquired by Indian conglomerate Tata group in a USD 14-billion deal in 2007 after a long-drawn takeover battle with Brazil’s CSN.
The Tatas, however, kept struggling to revive the business and have been now forced to sell the entire portfolio, within a decade of acquiring it, amid a major crisis in the British steel industry currently under way.
Tata Steel today announced selling its Long Products Europe business unit, known as Scunthorpe steel plant, to investment firm Greybull Capital for a “nominal” amount. This business employs 4,800 people — 4,400 in the UK and 400 in France.
On the buyout of Corus, the then Tata group chairman Ratan Tata had said the deal was “a defining moment”.
Now, faced with deteriorating financial performance, the group has decided to sell its UK steel business.
Recently, Ratan Tata reportedly remarked that its UK business is underinvested and overmanned.