Jobs hope as Corus steel plant sold

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The Independent Online

A steel plant which has been mothballed for the past year was today sold to a firm from Thailand, raising the prospect of hundreds of new jobs.

SSI, Thailand's largest steel maker, finalised an agreement to buy the Corus Teesside Cast Products site in Redcar.

Unions and local politicians welcomed the new announcement from SSI and Tata, which owns the Corus steel company in the UK.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the deal would help to secure 700 jobs at the plant.

He said: "This deal is very good news for workers at the Teesside plant and the region. I welcome the return of steelmaking to this historic steel site later this year.

"Coming just over a year after the plant was mothballed, it is a tribute to both companies involved - Tata Steel and SSI.

"Both parties have worked hard since August to reach a successful outcome on what has been a complex negotiation.

"This is a significant inward investment by SSI which will help to sustain the 700 jobs at the plant and create new ones at the site and the wider local economy."

Unite national officer Paul Reuter said: "I'm delighted this deal has been put together and it's a testament to the determination of the workforce to save the plant.

"The successful sale is the result of the unions, Tata, SSI and the local community working together."

The deal values the business at 469 million dollars (£291 million).

The acquisition is expected to lead to the creation of more than 800 jobs on top of the existing workforce of 700 at the steel plant, which will be brought back into full operation. The news comes a year after the plant was mothballed in February 2010.

TCP has the second-largest blast furnace in Europe and slab production capacity of 3.5 million tonnes per year.

The production facilities include iron-making facilities, steel-making facilities and the infrastructure and logistics facilities required to support full production.

The announcement follows a memorandum of understanding signed between SSI and Tata in August last year. The transaction is expected to complete in four to six weeks.

Karl-Ulrich Kohler, who heads Tata Steel in Europe, said: "I am very encouraged that after all our efforts we have been able to reach this agreement, which is good news for the highly skilled and dedicated Teesside workforce.

"I commend SSI, the Government and the trade unions for their roles in bringing about this agreement, and in particular the people of Teesside for the spirit and fortitude they have shown throughout the last, difficult two years."

"I should point out that Tata Steel intends to retain a major presence in Teesside. After the successful completion of this transaction, Tata Steel will remain one of the largest private sector employers in the area with more than 1,800 employees."

Win Viriyaprapaikit, president of SSI, said: "This is a historic moment for both Teesside and SSI, one that would not have been possible without the local community's passion for steel-making and the help of the UK Government. We look forward to resuming production of the top quality slab for which the plant is renowned as soon as possible.

"Owning Teesside Cast Products will enable us to achieve our long-standing ambition of becoming a fully integrated steel producer. This transaction will give us a strong platform for future growth, increase our resilience to industry cycles and give us opportunities to diversify into new markets and products."

Jimmy Skivington, GMB regional organiser for engineering on Teesside, said: "GMB welcome the fact that there will be an announcement this afternoon that the steel making plant at Redcar is to reopen with the prospect of between 600 to 800 jobs in a hard pressed community that has suffered badly from the banker recession."

Michael Leahy, chairman of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee and general secretary of Community, said: "This is truly wonderful news for Teesside steelworkers and the wider community.

"I cannot recall a more positive development in over 40 years of my involvement in the UK steel industry. To think that a year ago today was the eve of the mothballing and we have now saved our steel is fantastic.

"This has been a collective effort from all sides, including shuttle diplomacy by the unions to India and Thailand in search of a deal.

"It is a great tribute in particular to SSI for their perseverance and faith in Teesside steelworkers."