Steve April 1, 2021

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Liberty Steel owner Sanjeev Gupta has claimed that none of his plants will shut “under my watch” as he races to refinance his business after the collapse of financial backer Greensill.

He said taking on the UK plants had been a “tough journey” and a “labour of love”, but he would not walk away.

Mr Gupta was rebuffed by the UK government after asking for £170m.

Some investors have also begun legal action to have parts of his metals group wound up.

But Mr Gupta said he and his GFG group were “not waiting for anybody” and were “doing what we can to help our businesses”.

“Our overall global operations are profitable, we have refinancing offers, we will refinance, and we will support our UK business also,” Mr Gupta told the BBC.

“None of my steel plants under my watch will be shut down,” he said.

Liberty Steel has about 3,000 workers at sites including Rotherham, Motherwell and Newport. A further 2,000 work for GFG Alliance in other UK metals and engineering businesses.

Time is ticking for Sanjeev Gupta’s business empire.

The collapse of his main source of finance, Greensill Capital, leaves him dangerously exposed and in a race to find new sources of cash.

GFG Alliance, the group of companies he runs, owes Greensill about $5bn, according to GFG’s own evidence to court when Greensill was put into administration in February.

GFG also told the court that Greensill’s collapse would put it at risk of insolvency. Since then, it has been something of a phoney war, with little sign of the Greensill debacle causing greater damage.

Now, however, winding-up petitions have been lodged against some of Mr Gupta’s UK companies.

The investors that gave money to Greensill want their money back and Mr Gupta’s business empire is firmly in their sights.

On the Today programme on Thursday, Mr Gupta said his companies were ready to defend their position in court and they were confident their loan deal with Greensill was a long-term arrangement that could not suddenly be terminated.

He must now hold off the winding-off threats for long enough – or defeat them – while he finds sources of finance to replace Greensill.

This might mean the sale of assets, or new borrowing, although the process is complicated by much of the Gupta business empire already being pledged as collateral against the loans advanced by Greensill.

It will be a complicated and time-consuming business – and Mr Gupta may not be given much time.

Mr Gupta said steel prices were at a 13-year peak, while aluminium prices were also high.

He said GFG had been streamlining the business and had a “huge amount of interest from new financiers who are willing to back us” and refinance the group.

He said it would take time to sort things out, but a short-term solution was an initiative called “Project Athena” which required each plant to make daily reports on how they were conserving cash.

On Wednesday, Citigroup, acting on behalf of Credit Suisse, began legal action in London’s insolvency court to recoup unpaid debts from Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance.

Mr Gupta said it was “natural to some degree that lenders want to protect their own position”, but that GFG’s position was that it had agreed debts with Greensill for three years and they were not due.

GFG was having “positive discussions” with the administrators for Greensill, Grant Thornton, he added.

“It makes no sense for them, or any of the creditors, to destroy jobs, but more importantly to destroy value, because that is the value which will give them their recovery,” Mr Gupta said.

from the BBC

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