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The reborn British Steel was supposed to herald a new era in an industry that has suffered from decades of closures and job cuts.
Instead, less than three years after it was founded, the company is becoming more like a reminder of some of the darkest days in the history of UK manufacturing.
The country’s second-largest steelmaker was plunged into turmoil last week after it emerged that it was seeking a £75m taxpayer bailout — just two weeks after ministers agreed to an emergency £120m loan to help it meet EU environmental payments.
With talks at an impasse and fears of collapse mounting, there were even whispers in Westminster of a possible nationalisation.
Then on Thursday British Steel appeared to have averted immediate crisis by securing new funding from its existing lenders, although it made clear this was only a stopgap.
Despite the reprieve, there are serious questions about what has gone so wrong at a company with 5,000 employees that returned to profit in its first 100 days of new-found independence — and whether it has a viable future.
At the same time, scrutiny is sharpening on the actions and motives of private equity group Greybull Capital, which bought the business it would rebrand as British Steel for £1 from India’s Tata Steel in 2016, saving thousands of jobs.
Negotiations with the government hit a wall because the investor was either unwilling or unable to put money on the table, a key condition for ministers, said people briefed on the situation. Greybull has said it “invested additional capital as recently as last month”.
Any wariness on the part of government might be down to the investment fund’s chequered record.
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