Forgemasters spends £120m on new press in one of largest investments in steelmaking in Sheffield

Sheffield Forgemasters is buying a giant 13,000 tonne press for more than £120m - one of the largest investments in steelmaking in the city, The Star can reveal.

By David Walsh
Monday, 19th April 2021, 2:45 pm

The Brightside-based company snapped up the machine - one of the biggest in the world - to make forgings for nuclear submarines for the Royal Navy far into the future.

The deal is supported with a loan from the Ministry of Defence, in a massive vote of confidence in the firm’s capabilities.

The component is being shipped from Mitsubishi Nagasaki Machinery in Japan and will replace an ageing 10,000 tonne main forge press dating back to the 1950s.

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The 10,000 tonne main forge press dates back to the 1950s.

David Bond, chief executive at Sheffield Forgemasters, said they had ‘decades’ of nuclear defence work lined up but needed newer equipment.

He added: “We have a clear line of sight for the provision of critical forgings into UK defence nuclear work, which spans decades, but our ageing main forge press is unlikely to survive for that length of time.

“We have been examining ways of replacing this asset and became aware of a nearly new 13,000 tonne press being sold in Japan, which we have moved quickly to purchase.

“Our long-term relationship with UK defence prime contractors and the MoD is based on the critical work we do within the submarine programme and it would be inappropriate to comment further on such commercial sensitivities.”

The Prince of Wales with the 10,000 tonne press at Sheffield Forgemasters in 2008. Pic: John Giles/PA Wire

The historic company supplies ‘ultra-heavy’ castings and forgings into the defence, nuclear, oil and gas, power generation and steel processing sectors.

The deal is a shot in the arm after it announced in October plans to axe 95 jobs due to a ‘significant downturn for commercial work driven by the pandemic’.

And it comes after the government controversially cancelled an £80m loan for a 11,000 tonne press set to cost £120m 10 years ago, saying it was ‘unaffordable’. Based on those figures the new, larger press is expected to cost more.

A ‘Security Agreement’ filed with Companies House is signed by directors Mr Bond and Allan Skelton and ‘the Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’

David Bond, CEO at Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd.

It states Forgemasters is buying a 13,000 tonne free forge press facility and manipulators, together with associated equipment, spares and tools, packing, transportation and equipment.

Last month, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng pledged that steel will not be "consigned to the history books" after pleas from MPs to keep the industry afloat following the troubles at Liberty Steel.

He told MPs: "We've got an excellent firm in Sheffield, Forgemasters among others, and we all know the great history and traditions that Sheffield embodies and its vital role in the development of - the birth really of - the steel industry worldwide."

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.