Save Our Steelworks: Management buyout could be 'excellent venture' for Shotton plant


David Humphreys

A MANAGEMENT buyout of Tata Steel’s UK plants could be an “excellent venture” for Shotton and the company, a union rep has said.

Steve Webster, Community union representative at Shotton, said the possibility of directors of the Indian conglomerate’s UK sites taking a managing stake in the business was an “intriguing prospect”.

A senior manager at Tata Steel is believed to have expressed an interest in a purchase of the South Wales operation that provides Shotton with product for its Colorcoat and building resources elements.

Stuart Wilkie, managing director of Tata’s strip products business, is understood to be canvassing workers about joining a bid.

Mr Webster told the Leader: “With it being so early on, there’s a lot to process.

“It is intriguing that the business could be owned by the people with the expertise of managing it. It could be an excellent venture.”

Mr Wilkie is said to be seeking investment of up to £10,000 each from employees.

Private investors and Government support would also be needed.

Tata has not confirmed the names of anyone who has expressed an interest in buying its loss-making UK business.

Mr Wilkie was one of those behind a survival plan for Tata’s UK steel business, which was rejected by the board in India.

The business is losing £1 million a day and although Tata has not set a deadline for the sale, time is tight for a buyer to agree a deal.

Up to now Liberty Steel has been the only firm to express a public interest in buying the business. Mr Webster added: “It’s an intriguing thought and they have the expertise of running so you would hope if anyone could pull it off, it would be them.

“They need investment and a lot of money and I’d imagine there’d be an investor if it is going to work.

“It could also require investment from the Government too.”

A spokesman for the multi-union organisation at the Shotton plant said nothing had been confirmed to staff on site as yet.

“The fact the information has been leaked adds to the confusion, but it does suggest some hope for the future.

“We are in the infancy of the sales process and there are a number of interested parties that need to be ‘filtered down’ into investors.”

Alyn and Deeside Labour MP Mark Tami responded to the latest development positively.

He told the Leader: “I welcome any interest in the business, but it does remain early days. 

“As I have said all along, what we need for Shotton is a long-term solution.

“If this is to work, it’s too early to say but it could be a runner to start the bidding process.”

Mr Tami added: “I do think that Government support has to be there as part of this to offer financial support in the long term.

“It is far too early to say whether this would work or not but we have to explore all the areas and that includes Port Talbot being in the mix and Shotton potentially receiving its supplies from elsewhere.”

Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns told the Leader on Monday that nationalisation of Tata’s plants in the UK was not ‘off the table’ yet but the Government would prefer to ‘co-invest’ with a financial suitor to provide long-term security.

“Tata has explained for some time that they want to divest their operations and of course we want to find a potential investor and the Government stands ready and waiting to support that investor,” he said.

In a statement, Tata Steel Europe said it welcomed credible expressions of interest but would not name or confirm any potential investors.

The statement said: “All expressions of interest, including any management buyout proposals, will be considered when received.

“In the interests of all stakeholders every credible expressions of interest will enter the same rigorous assessment process to ensure t he best value and prospects of sustainability.”

l TRADE unionists will take to Wrexham AFC’s Racecourse pitch to highlight the plight of workers at Shotton steelworks. 

Before the Reds’ final home match of the season against Braintree Town this  Saturday, Unite members will walk on to the pitch holding a ‘Save Our Steel’ banner. 

A post on the ‘Unite The Union–- Save Our Steel’ Facebook page said: “Shotton workers, many of whom are Wrexham fans, are there to highlight the plight facing our steel industry. 

“Many many thanks to a fans owned club for accommodating this at short notice for a game that already had a lot planned.” 

The ‘walk-on’ by the Shotton workers follows a similar protest staged by workers from Unite, GMB and UCATT, who took to the pitch at Newport County’s Rodney Parade ground. 

See full story in the Leader

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