Wales politics

Carwyn Jones: Steel management buy-out 'has not raised money'

Carwyn Jones

First Minister Carwyn Jones has told AMs that a proposed management buy-out of the UK operations of Tata Steel has not yet raised the necessary cash.

Mr Jones is flying to Mumbai on Tuesday for talks with the firm's bosses over the future of thousands of Welsh jobs.

Plaid Cymru's Adam Price expressed concern that Mr Jones' made the remarks "at such a delicate time".

Welsh ministers have since clarified the statement, and said the buy-out team offered a "credible option".

Tata Steel has put its UK operations up for sale and is due to decide this week which of the seven prospective bidders will go to the next stage.

Two bidders - Liberty House and the management buyout group Excalibur Steel - are willing to work together.

'Useful tie-up'

Speaking at First Minister's Questions on Tuesday, Mr Jones said: "I think the management buy-out option contains a lot of technical expertise but has not yet raised the money.

"With Liberty Steel, they are a substantial business, but have not normally been involved in the heavy end of production.

"I think that is a useful tie-up and I look forward with interest to see how that progresses.

"I hope tomorrow that Tata will look very carefully at the bids and will certainly consider strongly the option of the management buy-out, possibly of course linked with Liberty Steel."

Mr Jones is expected to fly overnight to India for a meeting on Wednesday.

UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid was meeting Tata bosses in Mumbai on Tuesday, with the £485m deficit in Tata Steel's pension fund high on the agenda.

Potential buyers are reportedly reluctant to take responsibility for it.

Image copyright Plaid Cymru
Image caption Adam Price urged the first minster to clarify his remarks

Plaid Cymru's Adam Price said: "It is welcome that the First Minister has identified Excalibur Steel as its preferred bidder, but I am concerned that he has made these remarks at such a delicate time. Two days before the crucial meeting of the Tata board takes place in Mumbai, the First Minister should not jeopardise the reputation of investors.

"It is important to recognise that at this stage in a bidding process for a complex deal, most bidders will not have all monies pledged in place. It would be helpful for the First Minister to reassure us that Excalibur's situation is probably not unique."

Clarifying Mr Jones's remarks, a Welsh Government spokesman said: "The first minister is supportive of any bid that secures steelmaking in Wales and is travelling to Mumbai to fight for the future of Welsh steel.

"We have provided financial support to the MBO team and believe it offers a credible option. Details of any of the bids are strictly confidential and ultimately a matter between Tata and the bidder."

Excalibur said it was unable to respond to Mr Jones's comments because of the conditions that have been imposed on it in the bidding process.

Commenting on Twitter later, Mr Price added: "Also not convinced there is strong likelihood of Liberty/Excalibur tie-up. @fmwales needs to be better briefed if he is battling for Wales."

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