London: Britain’s new business and energy minister Greg Clark, who was in India for a brief visit earlier this week, held secret talks with Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry over the future of Tata Steel’s UK business, according to a media report.
The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy had released details of Clark’s meetings during his visit on Wednesday but intentionally did not disclose the meeting with Mistry, ‘The Times’ reported.
“However, senior Whitehall figures said it (meeting with Mistry) was the main reason for his visit,” the newspaper claims.
The new minister was keen to hold a face-to-face meeting with the Tata chief after a number of phone calls, the report said. His agenda in New Delhi included talks with Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines Minister Piyush Goyal and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
“While in New Delhi, the Business and Energy Secretary discussed the UK-India business relationship and considered ways to develop even stronger trade links following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union,” his department release said.
But it has now emerged that some time for a Tata Steel meeting had also been carved out. Clark’s predecessor Sajid Javid had pledged to help Tata Steel UK with a proposed package of measures and Theresa May, who took charge as British Prime Minister following the UK’s vote to exit the European Union, is reportedly supportive of the plan.
Meanwhile, Tata Steel had announced a halt in the sales process for major chunks of its UK units last month to open discussions with investors, including Germany’s ThyssenKrupp AG, to explore “alternative and more sustainable portfolio solutions” for its European business.
Tata Steel is also in talks with the UK’s Pensions Regulator about the British Steel pension scheme, which it inherited when it bought Corus back in 2007.
The scheme has 130,000 members, liabilities of 15 billion pounds, a deficit of 700 million pounds and considered one the biggest stumbling blocks since the Mumbai-headquartered firm had announced its intention to sell its UK business in March this year.