Excalibur says still in running for Tata Steel's UK assets

Management buyout group Excalibur, one of the bidders for Tata Steel's British business, intends to pursue plans to buy the assets, it said on Wednesday, despite Tata pausing the sale process to explore joint ventures.

"The Excalibur board has concluded it will continue the development of a series of opportunities that help meet its ambitions and plans to acquire the Tata Steel UK business," it said in an emailed statement.

Earlier this month, Tata Steel, Britain's largest steelmaker, put the process of selling its major British assets on hold because of the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote and surrounding pension liabilities and said it would also look at forming a joint venture, possibly with Germany's Thyssenkrupp.

The news caused speculation the joint venture would slowly run the loss-making Port Talbot steelworks in Wales into the ground. Thyssenkrupp has long said it believes consolidation of the troubled European steel industry is a necessity.

Excalibur was a front-runner in the Tata Steel sale talks alongside UK-based industrials firm Liberty House Group.

Like its counterpart, Liberty is, in principle, still interested in acquiring Tata Steel's British assets, as long as the company returns to the negotiating table relatively soon, an industry source told Reuters.

Liberty declined to comment.

The source also said Liberty has submitted bids for Tata Steel's Speciality Steels business based in Stocksbridge, north England, and for its northern English Hartlepool pipe mills.

The two businesses were excluded from Tata Steel's decision to put the sale of its British assets on hold.

Tata Steel employs some 11,000 people in Britain. Its specialty steel and tubes business together employ some 2,000 people, meaning the fate of another 9,000 steel jobs and thousands more indirectly related to steelmaking are at risk.