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A British led consortium has gobbled up failing Australian steel maker Arrium after beating out a Korean consortium which had previously been identified as the preferred bidder.

In an announcement, liquidator KordaMentha said it had entered into a binding agreement for the sale of the Arrium Manufacturing, Distribution and Recycling, Whyalla Steelworks and Mining divisions to the GFG Alliance owned by the British Gupta family after the group submitted a modified offer for the Arrium Australia business on Tuesday night.

Describing the outcome as ‘a great result for Arrium Australia employees and the city and people of Whyalla’, deed administrator Mark Mentha said the deal ensures their future after more than a year of uncertainty since the steel maker entered voluntary administration in 2016 with debts of more than $4 billion.

The move comes despite a Korean consortium being selected as the preferred bidder last month.

That consortium had been headed by Newlake Alliance Management and JB Asset Management and supported by Korean steel giant POSCO.

Mentha said the new offer from GFC was superior to the existing offer from the Koreans.

“Taking all factors into consideration, including the timeframes required to complete a sale, the Administrators and sale advisers Morgan Stanley, decided the GFC Alliance offer was superior to the conditional offer of the Korean Consortium with whom we were negotiating” Mentha said.

The sale of one of Australia’s biggest steel manufacturers to overseas interests highlights ongoing concern about the about the future of manufacturing in terms of supplies which are critical to the economy and the construction sector in Australia.

Increasingly, concern is growing about the degree to which decisions regarding investment in the supply of materials which are critical for buildings and infrastructure locally are being made in overseas boardrooms.

That said, in Arrium’s case, the deal provides relief and certainty about the company’s future.

This is especially the case for the people of Whyalla, who largely depend upon the company for employment and who have had to endure more than a year of uncertainty since the mining and manufacturing outfit entered into its voluntary administration.

State and Federal politicians lauded the deal – which remains subject to approval by the Arrium Committee of Creditors and the Foreign Investment Review Board.

“This is a great victory for Whyalla. An extraordinary victory for South Australia and a very important victory for our nation,” South Australian premier Jay Wetherill said.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said he expected to sign off to approve the sale speedily, and said the agreement delivered certainty for workers and the Whyalla community.

 
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