Ataer Holdings, a subsidiary of $18.2 billion Turkish military pension fund Oyak, has been selected as the preferred buyer for British Steel by the company’s official receiver.
Ataer was named as the winner among several bids by the official receiver, David Chapman, and the decision has triggered a period of detailed due diligence of the company ahead of its full sale.
“Following discussions with a number of potential purchasers for the British Steel group over the past few weeks I am pleased to say I have now received an acceptable offer from Ataer Holdings A.S. for the purchase of the whole business and I am now focusing on finalising the sale,” said Chapman in a statement. “I will be looking to conclude this process in the coming weeks, during which time British Steel continues to trade and supply its customers as normal.”
Chapman said he had given preference to Ataer over other bids as it was interested in buying the company in its entirety, rather than cherry picking certain assets.
In May, the UK’s High Court ordered British Steel into compulsory liquidation, and appointed Chapman as liquidator of the company on the petition of British Steel’s board of directors. The High Court also named S.J. Woodward, R.H. Kelly, and A.M. Hudson as special managers to support Chapman.
The company’s subsidiaries British Steel France Rail SAS, FN Steel BV, Redcar Bulk Terminal, The Steel Company of Ireland Limited, TSP Projects Limited, and TSP Engineering Limited are not in insolvency and are continuing to trade as normal.
“This is an important and positive step forward in securing the future of British Steel,” Andrea Leadsom, the UK’s secretary of state for business, energy, and industrial strategy, said in a statement. “I said that no stone would be left unturned in our efforts to find a suitable buyer for the whole company and we have worked tirelessly to support the official receiver to do that.
However, the selection of a company owned by the Turkish Army’s pension fund does not come without some controversy. Oyak was recently accused of corruption by a Turkish parliamentary commission, and reportedly co-owns a car plant with French automaker Renault, where striking workers were allegedly mistreated, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
“Given the company’s track record, Labour will hold the government to account if there are any moves to undermine the unions and workers’ terms and condition,”
UK Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told the Guardian.
The announcement of Oyak as the preferred buyer received a “cautious welcome” from UK union Unite.
“The overwhelming feeling of the 5,000 workers at British Steel is one of relief,” Harish Patel, Unite’s national officer for steel, said in a statement. “The announcement that Oyak has entered into exclusive talks about purchasing British Steel is not the end of the process, but it is a massive step forward and provides a degree of confidence for the workforce at British Steel and the company’s customers.”