Liberty Steel boss says no plants will shut 'under my watch'

The founder of Liberty Steel, Sanjeev Gupta, has revealed that the company owes "many billions" to collapsed financial backer Greensill Capital but insisted none of its plants will shut down "under my watch".

Liberty Steel employs nearly 2,000 workers at sites in Rotherham, Stocksbridge and Scunthorpe. It has 5,000 workers across its 12 UK sites.

Labour has called on ministers to provide clarity on the future of Liberty Steel's UK plants amid fears that thousands of jobs could be lost if the firm goes under.

Concerns over the future of the company were raised after financial backer, Greensill Capital, went bust.

This week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng refused to rule out the prospect that the company could be taken into public ownership, saying "all options are on the table".

5,000 people in the UK are employed by Liberty Steel.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday morning, Liberty Steel boss Sanjeev Gupta was asked how much money was owed to Greensill.

He said that "given the legal disputes we have with them, I can't talk specifics", but added "it is in many billions".

Mr Gupta said Liberty Steel is "currently enjoying one of the best markets in steel and aluminium", and its recent efforts to make "efficiency gains" are paying "good results".

"So, as a result, actually, we have a huge amount of interest from new financiers who are willing to back us," he said.

He added: "Of course, given the situation, this sort of thing takes time and hence we need to find short-term solutions. But we're not waiting for anybody.

We've taken matters into our own hands."

Mr Gupta said he has launched a project connected to "cash measures" plants are taking "to optimise and conserve and be careful".

He acknowledged there are some challenges in the steel sector, such as "high energy prices", but said the business has built its own plants to supply renewable energy to its operations.

Mr Kwarteng previously confirmed that ministers had turned down a request by Liberty's parent company, GFG Alliance, for a £170 million bailout.

The Government has also been facing questions over David Cameron's links with Greensill when he was prime minister and subsequent lobbying on its behalf after he left office.

The firm has since filed for insolvency after failing to secure support through the Government's Covid Corporate Financing Facility, with its collapse threatening thousands of jobs in Liberty Steel.