Sanjeev Gupta close to winning £200m loan to save Liberty Steel

Likely lifeline could save thousands of UK jobs and follows funding from same source for Australian unit

Metals magnate Sanjeev Gupta is close to securing a £200m loan for Liberty Steel UK, which would hand a lifeline to Britain’s third largest steel business and help stave off thousands of job losses.

It is understood that the billionaire has agreed on financing terms with White Oak Global Advisers, which is also providing fresh funding for the Australian arm of Gupta’s sprawling holding company, GFG Alliance.

Liberty Steel’s future has been hanging in the balance since its main lender, Greensill Capital, fell into administration last month, prompting a cash crunch for one of the UK’s largest steel producers.

While Gupta tried and failed to secure a £170m UK government bailout in March, the prospects of new financing from a private backer could alleviate fears over Liberty Steel’s own collapse.

If approved, the White Oak loan would allow Liberty Steel UK to return to full production, having intermittently paused operations at some of its plants in an attempt to preserve cash after Greensill’s failure, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

GFG Alliance, White Oak and Credit Suisse declined to comment.

In total, GFG’s UK operations include 11 steelworks plants across Great Britain, including at Stocksbridge and Rotherham in South Yorkshire, as well as an energy company and an aluminium smelter in Scotland. About 3,000 of GFG’s 5,000 UK staff are employed by its Liberty Steel UK division.

Sanjeev Gupta
Sanjeev Gupta had to halt production at some of his UK plants to preserve cash after Greensill Capital went into administration. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

However, the White Oak loan is understood to require approval from Credit Suisse, which has a claim on Liberty Steel UK via loans provided by Greensill Capital. The Swiss bank also ran multibillion pound investment funds that sold packaged loans to high net worth individuals, via a complex system devised by Greensill.

It is understood that none of the cash will be used to help offset some of the £3.6bn that GFG Alliance borrowed from Greensill. Reports suggested that Gupta’s UK steel business alone owes Greensill $769m (£553m).

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Greensill’s administrators at Grant Thornton are still working to recoup money from debtors like Gupta. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse has petitioned to wind up various Liberty Steel companies in the UK and Australia in an attempt to reclaim money for customers who invested in Greensill loans that were packaged up as investments and sold off via a series of Credit Suisse funds. Those investment funds were worth nearly $10bn before they were closed in March.

Gupta – who is currently in Dubai – is expected to be summoned in front of UK MPs from the business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee this summer, as part of a string of inquiries linked to Greensill Capital’s collapse.


Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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