Turkish conglomerate Cengiz Holdings has announced it is waiting in the wings to buy British Steel should a sale to China’s Jingye Group fall through.
After days of speculation that it is being lined up as a backup buyer by the UK government, Cengiz broke cover with a statement on Sunday.
Chief executive Omer Mafa said British Steel is “an important asset”.
“We are watching developments closely and are ready to make a bid for the whole of British Steel,” he added.
Cengiz has 12 main companies with 60,000 employees. It brings in about $7bn a year in revenue.
“The UK is one of our target countries that we want to invest in and are looking at a range of opportunities such as major infrastructure projects and industrial assets,” Mafa said.
It comes days after unions backed Jingye’s rescue deal, despite the potential that it might cut 500 jobs.
The Steel Committee met with Jingye representatives to discuss their business plan and in particular their proposals relating to employment, including pay and terms and conditions.
The employment package is said to be in the context of Jingye’s planned £1.2bn investment and the unions believe they have agreed a positive outcome in a number of key areas.
The points included ensuring “any changes do not disproportionately affect employees differently, protecting shift premia and avoiding reductions in regular take home pay”.
A statement from the unions said: “We have seen the detail and this investment would transform the business and secure the future of British Steel.”
It said that “if the business is to survive, then change is required” and that full details were now being drawn up.
However, the unions also accepted Jingye was likely to cut up to 500 jobs, adding that they could not endorse this decision.
Any new owner could offer new contracts with statutory minimum terms and conditions due to British Steel being in liquidation.
Civil servants have been trying to find a buyer for the UK’s second-biggest steel maker since it went into liquidation in May 2019.
British Steel employs about 4,000 people in Scunthorpe, where it’s main steelworks are.
The Chinese firm was chosen as the preferred bidder in November last year.