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Business Secretary Sajid Javid has said representatives of Tata Steel have told him that the UK's vote to leave the EU has "added a fresh layer of uncertainty" to any deal over its UK business.
Speaking in Dehli after talks with Tata in Mumbai, Mr Javid said: "The first thing that's come out of these meetings is they've said that they continue to evaluate the bids that they've received, but the decision by the UK to leave the EU has added a fresh layer of uncertainty."
The Business Secretary went on to say Tata representatives had told him they were entering into "early talks" with Thyssenkrupp to form a "joint venture", which he said wasn't agreed yet but "may well happen" and "certainly is very encouraging news because that could help create a new European-wide company that could be even stronger than Tata is today."
Mr Javid said he had reiterated that the UK government's offer of support, whether financial or otherwise, still stood and said they would continue to work together to "secure the long-term future of steel in the UK". He said he was "reassured" that Tata Steel was "taking this very seriously" and "acting very responsibly".
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Liberty House, one of the main bidders for Port Talbot, has said that deal is off the table.
"The bidders have been told that the sales process for entire Tata Steel UK business is at an end. There are still though on-going discussions re speciality steels and the Hartlepool operation,” it said.
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The entire steel industry in Europe is currently struggling to safeguard the future of its business. Just a few steelmakers in Europe are profitable in the current environment - our steel business is one of these few companies.
We have repeatedly emphasized that in this situation we believe a consolidation of the European Steel Industry is necessary, and we have outlined that in this situation everyone is talking to one another in the industry. Among others, we also are in talks with Tata Steel.
However, it still remains open whether and if, when and with whom such a step in consolidating the industry would take place. We presently do not intend to make any further announcements in this regard, unless and to the extent there are material developments in the process which may enable a consolidation." i
One of the bidders for part of Tata's UK steel business, Liberty House, has said the Tata Thyssenkrupp tie-up talks are "sad and frustrating news for the UK steel industry because the sector needs a fresh start and we fear this decision will simply deliver more uncertainty over a longer period."
"From our own point of view it's disappointing that, in the short term, we will not be able to apply our Greensteel strategy on the scale which would have truly evolved and transformed Britain's steel and engineering sector.
"We will continue to pursue our Greensteel vision to deliver an integrated value- added steel business that is both financially strong and built from renewable sources of energy and steel. In the short term we will continue discussions with Tata about the acquisition of a number of important assets that fit well with our strategy.
"We would like to thank those who have supported us internally and externally in this long and demanding process and look forward to working with many of them in taking our business forward."
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said: "The UK Government is determined to secure a long term future for steelmaking in South Wales and I am doing everything I can to help the thousands of people who rely on the Port Talbot plant for their livelihoods.
"Today's announcement of a joint venture is encouraging and I will continue working closely with Tata to secure the best possible deal for the hard-working men and women in Wales who help make British steel the best in the world."
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Tata is is talking to Thyssenkrupp regarding its strip products division and connected downstream operations.
General secretary of the Community steelworkers union Roy Rickhuss said he had been in contact with Tata executives at a board meeting in Mumbai.
"The current status of the sales process is unclear and this will be frustrating for our members, and perhaps even the bidders.
“This new approach means that uncertainty will continue for thousands of steelworkers and their families.
"It seems Tata believe this is in the best interests of sustaining steelmaking in Port Talbot and its downstream operations, but the test will come in the next steps that Tata takes and how the dialogue with Thyssenkrupp progresses.
"There have been reports of talks between Thyssenkrupp and Tata for some time, so now Tata should come clean about their intentions."
The possible European tie-up of Tata's UK steel business is "good news for Port Talbot", a Tata Steel spokesman said:Quote Message: This is good news for Port Talbot and our other flat products supply chain sites in the UK. It gives them the chance to be part of the largest premium, flat steel business in Europe with the depth of products, innovation and capabilities plus the scale economies to compete globally." from Tata Steel spokesman
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Tata's sale of its whole UK business is on hold with two separate processes now in play. The strip business, including Port Talbot, is now part of the wider discussion with Thyssenkrupp.
In addition, there will be a separate sale of the South Yorkshire-based specialty business and the Hartlepool pipe mills.
Tata is treating them as distinct as they are completely standalone and separate businesses, a spokesperson said.
Tata said it had evaluated bids for its business, and in the light of the Brexit vote and the consultation on British Steel pensions, it was now going to enter into talks with German engineering firm Thyssenkrupp.
Koushik Chatterjee, group executive director and Tata Steel’s Executive Director for Europe, said: “We have initiated conversations for a strategic collaboration for our European business. A potential strategic combination of strip products businesses offers the best prospects to create a premium, world-class strip steel business with the scale and scope of capabilities to compete successfully on the global stage.”
Tata has said it is in talks to enter into a joint venture with Thyssenkrupp involving Tata's UK steel business.