India’s Tata Steel has said it wants to sell its steel making operations in Britain and exit the UK as quickly as possible
The problem will be finding a buyer at a time of falling prices, high costs and huge overcapacity in China.
Tata made the decision at a marathon board meeting in Mumbai on the basis that its financial performance in Britain has deteriorated sharply in recent months.
The move threatens as many as 15,000 jobs at sites including the giant Port Talbot facility in Wales.
The British government has not ruled out the possibility of it buying the plants until a new owner can be found.
The Government is considering temporarily nationalising UK steel plants to save them from closure https://t.co/WTEvyNsFvL— The Independent (@Independent) March 30, 2016
Tata Steel bought Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus in 2007 and has since struggled to turn the giant around.
Port Talbot, though far from its 1960s peak, still employs about 4,000 people, and Tata is one of the most significant private companies in Wales.
Unions welcomed the decision not to shutter the plants but called on Tata to be a “responsible seller” and on the government to play its role.
“We don’t just want more warm words. We want a detailed plan of action to find buyers and build confidence in potential investors in UK steel,” Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of steelworkers’ trade union Community, said.
Steelmakers in Britain pay some of the highest energy costs and green taxes in the world and are also struggling to compete with record Chinese steel imports, which they say have been unfairly subsidised by Beijing.
Tata Steel is the second-largest steel producer in Europe. Two of its three main European units, Port Talbot and Scunthorpe, are in Britain, with the remaining operations in the Netherlands.