The steel company owned by tycoon Sanjeev Gupta has said it is nearing a deal to restructure debt payments with creditors including Credit Suisse and collapsed lender Greensill Capital.
Gupta’s Liberty Steel Group said in a statement on Tuesday it had reached an agreement in principle to restructure its debts, although it is understood that the details of any deal have not been confirmed. A deal could give Liberty Steel reprieve from insolvency proceedings started by the creditors.
Liberty is discussing one possible deal which could see the creditors recover only half of their original loans at most, according to people briefed on the talks. The Financial Times first reported the provisional terms.
Gupta has been trying to find new lenders and negotiate new terms with existing ones since the collapse of Greensill Capital in March 2021. The collapse raised fears over the future of an informal collection of companies owned by Gupta, GFG Alliance, which was said to employ 35,000 people across the world, including steel mills in Rotherham and Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire that employ close to 2,000 people.
The company’s attempts to refinance have been made more difficult by an ongoing investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, which announced in May 2021 that it was looking at GFG Alliance and Greensill for “suspected fraud, fraudulent trading and money laundering”. The SFO attended GFG offices in April 2022 to request documents, but GFG has denied any wrongdoing and has said it would work with investigators.
Despite the fraud investigation, the refinancing efforts have been partly successful. In Australia, a separately owned Liberty Steel business agreed to share some of its cashflows with creditors as part of a restructuring deal. However, the British business is thought to be in a much weaker financial position, making a deal more difficult as the UK approaches an expected recession.
The UK Liberty Steel business and Credit Suisse have signed a term sheet outlining the broad shape of a possible agreement, but one person with knowledge of the talks cautioned that any deal could take months to be finalised.
Gupta’s businesses owe clients of Credit Suisse about $1.2bn (£1bn), of which about $500m is thought to be owed by the UK operations.
Liberty said it was “in the process of negotiating a similar term sheet for the debt restructuring of Liberty’s European steel businesses”. The businesses outside the UK and Australia are thought to owe about $400m.
Jeffrey Kabel, Liberty’s chief transformation officer, said: “After several months of negotiations, we have now reached an agreement in principle that will provide recovery for the creditors and will significantly deleverage and derisk Liberty. This is a major step forward in our restructuring and transformation and we will now work at pace with the creditors to prepare and execute the agreement.”
Credit Suisse declined to comment.