Friday 14 August 2020 10:05 am

Liberty Steel snaps up British Steel's former French rail assets

Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Steel has acquired the French plant that had threatened to derail Chinese firm Jingye’s £50m rescue deal for embattled British Steel back in March.

Hayange, in northern France, used to be owned by British Steel is considered a strategic asset by the French government because it manufactures steel rails for high speed train network SNCF.

Read more: British Steel survival saga ends as Jingye completes purchase

Due to its strategic importance, French officials threatened to block the Jingye deal, before putting the site up for sale separately. 

Last month a French court blocked Jingye’s attempts to add the site to the portfolio of assets it took over from British Steel when the deal closed.

Today Gupta’s alliance announced it had had a bid for the site accepted, as well as the nearby Ascoval steelworks, which British Steel only purchased last year.

As a result of the deal, which is for an undisclosed sum, the future of the plant’s 700-strong workforce is assured.

Before the Open newsletter: Start your day with the City View podcast and key market data

The two plants will become part of Liberty’s Greensteel programme, which is a cornerstone of the alliance’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Liberty said it would commit an initial €65m in new financing for Hayange and Ascoval to enact its industrial plan.

Commenting on the deal, Gupta said: “Today is a landmark moment for the workers of Hayange and Ascoval, for the French steel industry, and for Liberty Steel Group’s Greensteel ambitions in France. 

“We have been interested in both of these sites for many years and have always believed that their futures were interlinked. 

Read more: British Steel future secure as Jingye set to complete £50m purchase

“We will revive both businesses, in a partnership supported by the extended GFG Alliance family, which I believe will be able to connect them to bigger opportunities in the market, host downstream developments, and provide additional demand for Ascoval’s steel.”

Last year there were reports that Liberty was in talks about acquiring British Steel as the company saw several potential takeover deals fall through in the 10 month period in which it was in administration.