UPDATED! There are lies, damned lies & reasons why Tata UK has foundered … #SaveOurSteel #PanamaPapers

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“To fend off a Brazilian rival, Tata had to pay a 70% premium over the stock price.  This was hefty for a company already in financial trouble with a large debt burden.  And Tata paid only $4bn (£2.8bn) of the estimated $14bn final price out of its own funds – the rest was borrowed, mainly from Indian public sector banks.”

“Why were taxpayer-funded banks so willing to lend to a big conglomerate to buy up an overpriced European company, even as they denied loans to Indian farmers and small-scale producers?  The sense of reversal of colonial roles might well have played a role.  The deal was lauded by politicians as a sign that Indian industry had come of age as a global player, and so prudent considerations were simply cast aside.

Repayment of those loans was supposed to be made out of the profits of Tata Steel Europe.  But those profits never came.”

 Tata tried to turn the tables on Britain.  It failed

 “In 2014 the UK imported 687,000 tonnes of steel from China, up from 303,000 tonnes in 2013.

It is true that the UK’s steel imports from the rest of the EU are much higher than this, they were 4.7 million tonnes in 2014, but crucially China is selling its steel at much lower prices.

Steel imports into the UK from the rest of the EU cost on average 897 euros a tonne in 2014, while Chinese steel imports were just 583 euros a tonne, says the EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat.  This has led to accusations that China is selling at unfairly low prices.”

 Britain’s steel industry: What’s going wrong?

 “Notably, in Tata Steel’s 2014/15 annual report, UK energy costs are not mentioned.  Instead, its focus is on high pension liabilities, the strong pound and weak domestic demand.”

 Factcheck: The steel crisis and UK electricity prices

Tata “has taken more than £700m in free carbon allowances and offsets, according to analysis of emissions trading scheme data.”

Tata Steel benefited from EU climate policies, studies show

“Ten” Tata “staff including two executives have been suspended after an internal audit uncovered allegedly falsified quality certificates, prompting criminal inquiry.”

” “Right now the problem is that the English (?) facilities are underinvested [and] overmanned,” Tata was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.

He said a potential buyer at Port Talbot would need to “cut back on the size and the scale of the operations and make them profitable”.  This would be “extremely challenging” but not impossible.”

Tata Steel crisis deepens with senior staff suspended amid SFO probe

As for the business rates, it looks like Tata has a lot of underutilised space at places like Port Talbot.  Land that might be redeveloped, if one were in it for the long haul:

“Tata Steel has rightly decided to put a stop to investing in these loss-making assets, as structural issues such as high labour, energy and regulatory costs make them unviable even over the longer term”.

Tata Steel: potential Port Talbot bidder says he is yet to decide on offer

Green Steel is an Opportunity not a Threat

I like the cut of Sanjeev Gupta’s jib, but I fear some of the purists may be uncomfortable with the switch to green steel:

“He was doubtful about Gupta’s proposal to scrap Port Talbot’s blast furnace in favour of arc furnaces to recycle scrap steel.  He said the blast furnace was technologically advanced and its energy could be reused for other purposes.”

Port Talbot MP says lower Tata losses improve chance of deal

“The Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, whose constituency covers Port Talbot, welcomed Gupta’s interest but questioned the credibility of his plan. Kinnock told the BBC’s Today programme that the blast furnaces at Port Talbot are technologically advanced and replacing them would lead to job losses.”

Tata Steel: potential Port Talbot bidder says he is yet to decide on offer

“Gupta has put forward a plan to revitalise Port Talbot.  This involves converting its blast furnaces into electric arc furnaces that use scrap steel.  However, this would lower production capacity and the government and unions are keen to preserve the blast furnaces.”

Who might rescue Port Talbot?

Alex Salmond, never one to miss an opportunity to polish up the green credentials of the SNP, recently highlighted the green steel aspect of their rescue operation.

Labour’s, understandable, response to the problems of the steel industry, has harked back to the party’s past.  Compare and contrast with the party leadership’s relatively lacklustre reaction to the impact of the UK Government’s changes in support for renewable energy.  Changes that endangered at least as many jobs in the renewable energy sector as are currently under threat in the steel industry.

The renewable energy sector is a growing part of the UK economy and it consumes steel products.  However, steel is currently only ever going to maintain its current contribution to the UK economy.  Whereas promoting energy efficiency, reducing energy usage and switching to greater generation of energy from renewable sources promise so much more (and more business for the steel industry):

  • Promoting energy efficiency and reducing energy usage cuts energy bills for individuals and businesses whilst also creating jobs
  • Promoting energy efficiency, reducing energy usage and switching to greater generation of energy from renewable sources increases energy security, leaving us less at the mercy of Johnny Foreigner, whether Canadian or Saudi Arabian, as we reduce energy imports and in doing so create jobs
  • Investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy will create a home market for companies linked to the industrial sector and create the capacity so that they may export renewable energy and energy efficiency knowledge, semi-manufactured and manufactured products, whilst creating jobs
  • Investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy may well allow us to export energy to Europe thereby improving our balance of payments
  • Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency will help reduce pollution.

All the Labour leadership candidates spoke of the opportunities posed by the Green Industrial Revolution.  However, the response by the current leadership to problems with a smokestack industry suggests that more thinking needs to be done as to how to grasp those opportunities, whilst, at the same time, seeking to preserve jobs in mature sectors of the economy.

Moreover, a leader, heavily reliant on support within his party’s membership from former Green Party voters, members and candidates, needs to quickly work out how to balance the concerns of that group, which he has personally attracted to the party, with those of Labour’s core voters who are well to the right of the membership.

Free tip for the Corbyn Boys, a Government that implements policies that will cut  energy bills; reduce pollution; create businesses, jobs and exports; will, sotto voce, be helping to reduce carbon emissions.

I think the voters will buy tackling Man Made Global Warming, if we talk less about the fact that we are doing it and more about what doing it will do for them.  In that way, the expectations of Labour’s membership may be reconciled with the concerns of those whose votes Labour is seeking.

Vote of confidence in UK steel as Liberty plans to reopen Kent plant

Sanjeev Gupta: from college dorm deals to UK steel’s great hope

Port Talbot steel crisis: why we can’t just blame Brussels

More articles from the Guardian about the Steel Industry

More articles from the Guardian about Tata

Other articles:

Tata Steel: No, thank you!

Tata Steel: ‘Nationalisation not the answer’ says Javid

Sajid Javid: Tata Steel sale process to begin by Monday

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