Sunday 8 December 2019 6:12 pm

New buyers on standby for British Steel if Jingye deal falls through

Business secretary Andrea Leadsom has reassured the steel industry that back-up buyers are ready to swoop in for British Steel should Chinese firm Jingye’s deal fall through.

Last month the Insolvency Service confirmed that Jingye would purchase British Steel’s Scunthorpe plant, along with its Teeside and French assets, for £50m, in a move that will hopefully save 4,000 jobs.

Read more: British Steel’s French site up for sale separately to Jingye deal

The Chinese company said it would invest £1.2bn in the company in a bid to improve its environmental credentials.

Leadsom told the Sunday Telegraph: “We have worked tirelessly to seek to identify potential buyers and we do still have interested parties.”

Liberty Group, which is owned by entrepreneur Sanjeev Gupta, remains interested in British Steel, having been one of the candidates in the initial process.

Liberty works closely with British Steel with rolling mills up and down the country that are customers of the steelmaker.

Since May, the government has been propping up the failed business, which has reportedly been costing taxpayers more than £1m a day.

An initial deal with Turkish pension fund Ataer Holdings fell through in October. The agreement fell through after both sides failed to agree terms.

Jingye was reportedly taken off guard last week when it was reported that British Steel’s French factory was up for sale in an independent process.

The site at Hayange in northern France, which makes rail for national train firm SNCF, is a strategic asset for the French government, meaning it can grant or withhold approval for any change of ownership.

Read more: Jingye Group promises to save thousands of jobs in £50m deal for British Steel

Earlier this month French officials asked for confirmation from the Chinese firm that it would continue to supply metal to Hayange.

The site is one of the most profitable parts of British Steel’s business.