Sanjeev Gupta promises no UK steel plant closures under his watch

Aditi Khanna
·3-min read

London, Apr 1 (PTI) British Indian businessman Sanjeev Gupta on Thursday promised that he is working on refinancing his company, Liberty Steel, and that none of the UK plants will close under his watch.

In a set of broadcast interviews, Gupta addressed the thousands of steelworkers employed by his company to say that they are like his family and he will not give up on them.

His message came amid crisis talks with the government and other financiers after the collapse of Liberty's biggest commercial lender, Greensill Capital, last month.

'I will not give up on you. You are my family. Under my watch, none of my steel plants will close, I promise,' Gupta told ‘Sky News’ as a message to his workers.

He admitted that the insolvency of Greensill Capital was a “shock to the system” but said that his GFG (Gupta Family Group) Alliance business empire had already been in the process of switching away from Greensill as a source of financing and that his only regret was not doing so earlier.

'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,' he told the BBC.

Liberty Steel is the UK's third-largest steel producer while its parent company, Gupta's GFG Alliance, has a further 2,000 UK staff working in the aluminium and renewable energy sectors.

Gupta defended his company's relationship with Greensill, saying that it had been effectively a 'big start-up... buying businesses nobody else wants' and had had to look for alternative financing outside more conventional sources such as banks and bond markets.

'Greensill provided us that solution, it enabled us to build those plants and it was now time to move on to conventional financing, which we were in the process of doing,' he said.

Gupta insisted on the viability of the business, pointing to high steel and aluminium prices and saying that globally it was doing 'extremely well', but acknowledged the difficulties of refinancing 'given the size of the business and given the noise around us at the moment'.

“This is a shock to the system – there's no denying that. And we are handling the situation as it has arisen, but we need to keep in mind that our business actually is enjoying one of the best times it's ever had,' he said.

Liberty Steel controls 11 sites in the UK, including Rotherham and Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire, Newport in South Wales and Hartlepool.

In the past, the tycoon has been described as the 'saviour of steel' after picking up a number of plants that were offloaded by previous owners as the industry faced a squeeze from the threat of cheap Chinese imports and soaring energy costs.

'Our record speaks for itself. We bought plants which would have otherwise shut. But those plants now have a viable future. Those jobs have a viable future,' Gupta said.

On Wednesday, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng had said that “all options are on the table” for the government as he did not rule out the prospect of nationalisation of the embattled steel company.

“We think the steel industry has a future in the UK. Only two weeks ago my department published an industrial decarbonisation strategy. Electric arc furnace-produced steel of the kind that Liberty makes – we think that has a future in the UK,” the minister said.

Gupta said that all help would be welcome but meanwhile he is 'not waiting for anybody' and is doing all he can to find the finances required. PTI AK NSA