British Steel made available for new bids after exclusivity arrangement expires
The government is prepared to open talks with new bidders looking to acquire the troubled British Steel firm after failing to agree terms with Ataer Holding, the Turkish company which was granted exclusivity earlier this year.
Ataer, a subsidiary of Turkey’s Armed Forces Assistance Fund, Oyak, had until Thursday to agree terms to purchase British Steel after entering exclusivity in August.
An agreement for purchase has not since materialised.
The British Steel business went into compulsory liquidation in May after failed rescue talks with the government, but it has since been kept running by the state as it looks to offload the firm to a buyer.
5,000 jobs remain at risk, including at its Scunthorpe site, with another 20,000 in the supply chain also vulnerable.
The Official Receiver said on Wednesday that discussions can now open with other bidders, despite ongoing negotiations with Ataer.
Ataer already has a stake in the Turkish steel industry, owning almost 50 per cent of the country’s largest steel producer Erdemir.
MPs have also raised concerns over its close ties to the Turkish state, given its recent activity in Kurdish territory in Syria.
The Official Receiver said: "While discussions with Ataer are continuing, discussions with other parties who have expressed continued and renewed interest in acquiring the whole British Steel business will now be possible.
"Meanwhile, Ataer remain very much interested in acquiring the business and we remain in detailed discussions with them to conclude a sale.”
The Official Receiver emphasised that its focus was on concluding the sale as soon as possible.
It said: “The conclusion of the exclusivity period allows us to consider all of the options available at this point in the process. I would like to thank the team at British Steel for their continued support and hard work during this period of uncertainty.”
Liberty House, a company which already owns facilities in nearby Rotherham and Stocksbridge, may be one party that is willing to come back with a fresh bid having already mooted its interest earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, Labour MP for Scunthorpe, Nic Dakin, has been in regular contact with British Steel, business secretary Andrea Leadsom and the trade unions.
Dakin said: "The fundamentals of British Steel are unchanged. This is a strong business, which is reflected by the continued interest of a number of parties in buying British Steel.
“I am continuing to do everything I can to ensure that there is a successful outcome.”
The Unite trade union's assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner, has also been in touch with the business secretary, calling on the government to “stand behind” British Steel as a “strategically important business” until the sale process is concluded.