London, May 29 (PTI): Tata Steel may still hold on to its UK steelworks and their proposed sale may be put off after a personal intervention by Prime Minister David Cameron who is keen on averting the collapse of Britain's steel industry ahead of the EU referendum, a media report said today.
Cameron: Stakes are high
The Sunday Times quoted sources as saying that the sale of Port Talbot in Wales, the UK's largest steelworks, and steel mills owned by the Tata group around the country, may be put off as the steel crisis prompted a series of offers from the UK government, including multi-million-pound loans and taking a 25 per cent stake in the business.
"Sources said a sale of Port Talbot, and steel mills around the country, was looking increasingly unlikely. Tata began contemplating retaining the vast south Wales site after personal intervention from David Cameron," the daily said.
"The Prime Minister is desperate to avert the collapse of Britain's steel industry ahead of the EU referendum on June 23," it said.
Last week, the government proposed a law change to slash the liabilities of the £14 billion British Steel Pension Scheme, which is underwritten by the Tatas and has a £700-million deficit.
Annual rises in payouts from the final salary scheme would be linked to inflation as measured by the consumer price index instead of the generally higher retail price index.
The change would cut £2.5 billion off the scheme's liabilities, which its trustees believe would keep it out of the Pension Protection Fund and smooth the path to a sale of Tata Steel UK.
However, this and other government measures could help to reverse the losses at Port Talbot, which were as high as £1 million a day last year, and persuade the Tatas to hang on to the business, sources told the newspaper.
However, the Tata group has stressed it is "committed to the sales process".
While the Tatas are yet to publicly reveal any shortlisted bidders for its UK units, the three still in contention are believed to be Liberty House, run by Indian-origin businessman Sanjeev Gupta, London family investment fund Greybull Capital and Leeds-based turnaround fund Endless, believed to be backed by American billionaire Wilbur Ross.
Reacting to media speculation, an MP representing steelworkers from his Abervon constituency in Wales, Stephen Kinnock, demanded that the Tatas clarify their long-term plans for the industry.
"If they do want to stay we would welcome that in principle," he told the BBC.