After the collapse of its deal in Europe with Thyssenkrupp AG, Tata Steel is reportedly considering several options, including a new partner for a joint venture (JV), according to Bloomberg Quint.
A report in the Business Standard quoted Tata Steel CEO and Managing Director T.V. Narendran as saying the steel major had a Plan B. The CEO also pointed out that Tata Steel was now a more “structurally sound company.”
In a conference call May 10 after the announcement of the JV not coming through, Narendran reiterated that Tata Steel was exploring a few options, though he did not clarify further. The CEO also forecast that the firm’s U.K. operations should improve upon their performance this year. At the same time, he underlined that the units in Europe need to be cash positive.
Executive Director and CFO Koushik Chatterjee said that volumes in Europe should increase by 5% this year, although the demand outlook in the continent is dim.
Analysts here say the collapse of Tata Steel’s JV with Thyssenkrupp AG had once again turned on the spotlight on Tata’s $13 billion debt. The deal would have transferred some of the debt to the joint venture.
At March-end, the Indian group’s debt stood at $13.15 billion, which is said to be the highest among Indian steelmakers. Of this, about $2.5 billion is from its European operations. Tata was looking at the Thyssenkrupp JV to create a sustainable portfolio in Europe. The management had hoped to bring in a level of stability to the units under the JV, which would have also taken over about 15% of Tata Steel debt.
Since 2016, Tata Steel has been trying to resolve its European business to get it on the right path. It had first purchased Corus Group Plc for about U.S. $13 billion in 2017. Since then, it has been involved in a series of closing and selling of plants in the U.K.
Meanwhile, a report in moneycontrol.com said there was unease at the U.K. units of Tata Steel with unions seeking an assurance that the company’s operations not be split and sold off after the JV fell through.
Tata Steel’s European operations include units in the U.K. and the Netherlands, employing about 20,000 people. The Netherlands-based unit is said to be among the most profitable ones in Europe. However, the U.K. operations have been constrained under high energy costs in the country and legacy issues.