Wednesday 6 November 2019 5:32 pm

Chinese firm Jingye Group 'in pole position to buy British Steel'

The Chinese company which has reemerged as a frontrunner to buy British Steel is thought to have lofty ambitions the country’s second-biggest steelmaker.

Jingye Group, which is hoping to strike a deal for the manufacturer by the middle of this month, is chaired by businessman Li Ganpo, one of the richest men in China.

Read more: Chinese steel maker Jingye in new bid for British Steel

Ganpo and a group executives arrived in the North of England last week for a tour of the company’s flagship Scunthorpe plant and its factory on Teesside.

Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin, whose constituency houses British Steel’s biggest plant, said members of the delegation from Jingye Group were “very keen” in doing a deal.

“He [Li Ganpo] has quite an ambitious desire for the steelworks,” he added.

British Steel employs around 5,000 people in the UK, and supports about 20,000 further jobs in the supply chain. It is one of Network Rail’s main suppliers.

Jingye reentered the fray as a bidder for the company when negotiations with Ataer Holding, an investment arm of the Turkish military’s pension fund, did not come to fruition during a period of exclusivity with the Official Receiver, which is managing the negotiations.

Ataer is still “an interested and active bidder,” Dakin told City A.M., but Jingye’s overtures to buy the manufacturer are thought to be more attractive to the Official Receiver.

Gill Furniss, Labour’s shadow steel minister, said: “At this moment in time the workforce needs some reassurance.”

She blamed the government for not closing the deal with Ataer while the exclusivity agreement was still in place. “I’m disappointed the government hasn’t done its bit.”

Read more: Questions linger as Turkish military pension fund swoops in on British Steel

Other bidders are thought to include Liberty Steel, which is owned by British businessman Sanjeev Gupta.

However, the Chinese firm is hoping to reach an agreement with the Official Receiver by 10 November, according to the Financial Times.

The Official Receiver and Jingye Group were not available for comment.

(Main photo credit: Jason Nicholls, V1 Images)