After months of negotiations, Corus has finally agreed to sell the mothballed steel unit at Teesside in the UK to Thailand’s Sahaviriya Steel Industries for about $500 million, bringing to an end year-long efforts by Tata Steel that were occasionally marred by interference from British political parties and trade unions.
Corus, the international subsidiary of Tata Steel, will sell its steelmaking assets and power generation facilities to revive the Teesside unit after a key client walked away from a contract in 2009 making operations at the unit unviable.
Tata Steel later said the loss from the reneged contracts amounted to about $233 million, about 80% of Teesside’s business. It also put at risk over 1,000 jobs and sparked off strong political and labour opposition.
“The deal is expected to create significant number of new jobs at the plant in addition to Teesside’s existing workforce of over 700 people,” Corus said in a statement.
Although three buyers had expressed interest in the Teesside unit in the past year, Tata Steel’s talks with Sahaviriya Steel Industries strengthened after the Thai steelmaker showed interest in the Corus technology for construction-grade steel. SSI doesn’t have the technology.
Sahaviriya Steel Industries is one of the biggest steel producers in Thailand. President of the company, Win Viriyaprapaikit, said: “We have great respect for the tradition of steelmaking at Teesside and for the highly skilled Teesside workforce, having previously purchased slab from Teesside Cast Products.”
In May last year, Tata Steel gave a financial assistance of about £425 million in phases, with about £200 million to pay off debts and for improving the balance sheet.
According to people familiar with the development, Sahaviriya Steel Industries is exploring options of relocating vital plant and machinery from Teesside to Thailand. The company would then be able to export to markets closer home and also cater to customers within Thailand, the people added.
The plan to ship the machinery is also in line with a recent proposal to develop an offshore wind farm business on the site at Teesside. Earlier, there were unconfirmed reports that Tata Motors, another group company, would set up a car making unit at the Teesside site