Liberty Steel £50m cash injection to safeguard 660 jobs at plant in Rotherham

Liberty Steel says it has safeguarded 660 jobs at its plant in Rotherham after securing a £50m cash injection and will reopen later this month.

Sunday, 10th October 2021, 9:56 pm

The deal comes after months of uncertainty for workers after Liberty’s owner, GFG Alliance, was forced to seek funding when its key lender, Greensill Capital, collapsed.

The money reportedly comes as part of a restructuring of GFG Alliance.

Now, the firm claims the Rotherham plant will reopen later this month after being closed since spring.

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Furnaces at Liberty Steel in Rotherham. The plant will reportedly reopen in October after being closed since spring after a £50m cash injection.

Steelworkers' union Community said it was "overdue" but was "an important step in the right direction".

Jeffrey Kabel, GFG's chief transformation officer, said in a statement: "The injection of £50m of shareholder funds into Liberty Steel UK is an important step in our restructuring and transformation.

"It will help to create sustainable value, ensure that Liberty has the ability to raise and deploy capital quickly in the UK and enable our businesses to demonstrate their potential and agree long-term debt restructuring."

Reinforcement bar at Liberty Steel in Rotherham. Hundreds of jobs were left in jeopardy after Liberty's owner's main financers, Greensill Capital, collapsed this year.

At the beginning of the year, Liberty Steel employed 3,000 steelworkers in the UK.

But its future was thrown into doubt when Greensill collapsed in early March. GFG has been struggling to raise new financing since then, while the majority of its workers have been on furlough.

In April, GFG approached the government for help, but the request was rejected by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

It comes after Sheffield Forgemasters was nationalised by the Government in a £2.58m buyout in August after years of insecurity for its workers.

GFG, one of the UK's largest industrial groups, is owned by businessman Sanjeev Gupta.

GFG said the cash injection would allow Liberty Steel (LSUK) to restart its electric arc furnace at Rotherham.

"Production ramp-up will commence in October 2021 with a plan to reach 50,000 tonnes per month as soon as possible," it added.

"The restart of operations will enable colleagues to return to work, setting the platform for LSUK's longer-term refinancing and delivery of its plan to expand Rotherham's capacity, creating a two million tonnes per annum green steel plant."

News of the move was welcomed by industry body UK Steel.

A spokesperson said it was "really good news for not only the company, but those many thousands of workers and their families, the communities where those jobs a located and of course the whole of the UK steel sector".

"Our friends at Liberty Steel can now fire up those furnaces, make the steel that this economy needs and most importantly give some certainty to the well-paid and highly-skilled workforce."

But the spokesperson added: "The last thing the sector needs now is for government to merely sit on its hands and risk an energy crisis becoming a steel industry crisis."

UK Steel called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene on the industry's behalf "before it is too late".

Meanwhile, plans are proceeding to sell off GFG's Speciality Steel business, which employs about 750 staff at plants in South Yorkshire.

GFG said the cash lifeline would help Speciality Steel to "establish a stable operating environment and create an attractive asset".