There is a growing possibility that Tata Steel’s UK operations, which include the Port Talbot steelworks, will be broken up as the sale process drags on.
Of the 20 or so bids Tata has received for the company only two are understood to be for the businesses as a whole.
Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty House has submitted an offer with backing from Australian investment bank Macquarie, while Port Talbot’s senior management has assembled a buyout consortium, called Excalibur, supported by Welsh billionaire Sir Terry Matthews.
Other bids, including from steel industry veteran Tony Pedder’s vehicle Albion Steel, are thought to be interested only in certain assets.
Tata yesterday confirmed it would consider breaking up the business, which could mean heavier job losses than if it was sold intact.
A spokesperson for the Indian steel conglomerate said it is committed to exploring strategic alternatives for its UK business.
“This could include finding one or more buyers for our UK operations,” the company said in a statement. “We will do everything possible to look for the best possible outcome.”
The sale is now unlikely to be decided until after the EU referendum on 23 June, although a preferred bidder could be named before then. Tata previously dismissed reports the sale would be wrapped up by 28 May.
The government is currently locked in talks with bidders and has said it would be willing to take a 25 per cent stake in any rescue of Tata Steel’s operations, which could take the form of an equity stake or loans on commercial terms. The Welsh government could also contribute an additional £60m in aid.