Up to seven bidders have expressed interest in buying Tata’s UK steel-making assets ahead of negotiations that will determine the future of the crisis-hit industry in Britain.
Among the bidders are the two favourites, engineering firm Liberty House and management buyout group Excalibur, and there have been rumours of a joint proposition between them. Out of the claimed seven bidders, two may have pulled out at the last moment.
Tata Steel’s board is expected to meet in Mumbai on Wednesday to agree on a shortlist of up to three candidates before making a final decision.
The UK’s Business Secretary Sajid Javid is travelling to Mumbai to take part in the negotiations, in which he is expected to iterate the UK’s commitment to take up a 25 per cent stake in the buyout to make the transaction more attractive for the bidders.
Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said: "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 kowtowing to China and start standing up for our steel."
Former UK pensions minister Steve Webb warned against less thought through proposals to use the British Steel pension scheme to help save jobs at Tata.
"The desire to save steel jobs is entirely understandable, but there are huge risks if a quick fix for this problem were to undermine the carefully constructed pension protection framework,” Webb said.
"The pensions of millions of workers and pensioners depend on employers honouring the pension promises that they have made. A deal on Tata must not create a precedent or a loophole which could be exploited by firms keen to walk away from their pension liabilities. Ministers must tread with extreme caution in this area."
Steel workers from across the country will stage a march in central London on Wednesday to maintain pressure on the Government and Tata to help save jobs at plants, including the country's biggest steelworks at Port Talbot in South Wales.