Home >Companies >JSW Steel in the running for Tata Steel’s UK assets

JSW Steel Ltd emerged as one of the seven bidders shortlisted to buy Tata Steel Ltd’s money-losing UK operations, prompting investor concern that a debt-funded purchase may hurt the Sajjan Jindal-led company’s financials.

JSW will submit a binding bid after examining the assets, a person familiar with the development said, requesting anonymity.

JSW Steel’s interest in the UK assets surprised investors, as the steel maker has so far largely focused on India, where it has 18 million tonnes of steel-making capacity. Investors concerned about the effect of a potential purchase sold the stock, sending it sharply lower by 2.9% on Monday.

Some analysts are sceptical about JSW Steel’s seriousness about acquiring the UK assets.

“JSW is bidding only for academic interest and not a serious contender," said Rakesh Arora, managing director at brokerage Macquarie Capital Securities India Pvt. Ltd. “Its balance sheet does not provide it with flexibility for this kind of an asset."

JSW Steel’s consolidated debt as of 30 September 2015 stood at 37,363.94 crore.

A Tata Steel spokesperson declined to comment on the bidders, citing non-disclosure agreements.

On Monday, the company said it had taken forward seven expressions of interest it had received for its entire UK assets to the next stage of the sale process without naming the bidders. Liberty House, led by commodity trading tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, has confirmed submitting an expression of interest.

In an emailed response, a JSW spokesperson said: “As part of company’s growth strategy, the company evaluates several opportunities, including the current opportunity of UK steel facilities."

To be sure, this is not the first time JSW Steel has looked at overseas assets. In 2014, JSW Steel tried unsuccessfully to acquire Italian steelmaker Lucchini SpA.

JSW Group has been on an acquisition spree over the last one year. In September, JSW Energy Ltd agreed to buy two hydro assets from Jaiprakash Power Ventures Ltd and more recently, on 4 May, JSW Energy agreed to buy 1,000 megawatts power capacity from Jindal Steel and Power Ltd.

JSW’s bigger rival Tata Steel decided to sell its UK assets to pare losses in its European business and initiated the sale process on 11 April.

Tata Steel had acquired these assets as part of its buyout of Corus Group Plc. for $12.9 billion in 2007.

The company has also shortlisted Liberty House’s bid, a second person close to the development said, seeking anonymity.

Excalibur Steel UK Ltd, US steel producer Nucor Corp. and a Chinese group are among those who have progressed to the next round of bidding, according to a Financial Times news report on Monday. Excalibur declined to comment.

The Financial Times report also said investment firm Greybull Capital LLP was one of the bidders for the Tata Steel UK assets.

“Our focus is currently on completing the deal for the Long Products Europe business," said a spokesperson for Greybull Capital in an emailed response. Greybull Capital agreed to buy Tata Steel Europe’s long products division for a nominal value on 11 April.

Under the agreement, which will save about 4,800 jobs, Greybull Capital was to pay a nominal £1 for the entire long-products business and take over its assets and liabilities.

That deal included a £400 million investment and financing package for the business, as well as agreements with suppliers and unions on cutting costs.

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