British Steel collapses, threatening thousands of jobs

Workers leave from British Steel’s Scunthorpe plant in north Lincolnshire, north east England on May 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2019
0

British Steel collapses, threatening thousands of jobs

LONDON: British Steel Ltd. has been ordered into liquidation as it struggles with industry-wide troubles and Brexit, threatening 5,000 workers and another 20,000 jobs in the supply chain.
The company had asked for a package of support to tackle issues related to Britain’s pending departure from the European Union. Talks with the government failed to secure a bailout, and the Insolvency Service announced the liquidation on Wednesday.
“The immediate priority following my appointment as liquidator of British Steel is to continue safe operation of the site,” said David Chapman, the official receiver, referring to the Scunthorpe plant in northeast England.
The company will continue to trade and supply its customers while Chapman considers options for the business. A team from financial firm EY will work with the receiver and all parties to “secure a solution.”
“To this end they have commenced a sale process to identify a purchaser for the businesses,” EY said in a statement.
The government said it had done all it could for the company, including providing a 120 million pound ($152 million) bridging facility to help meet emission trading compliance costs. Going further would not be lawful as it could be considered illegal state aid, Business Secretary Greg Clark said.
“I have been advised that it would be unlawful to provide a guarantee or loan on the terms of any proposals that the company or any other party has made,” he said.
Unions had called for the government to nationalize the business, but the government demurred.
The opposition Labour Party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson described the news as “devastating.”
“It is testament to the government’s industrial policy vacuum, and the farce of its failed Brexit,” he said in a tweet.
The crisis underscores the anxieties of British manufacturers, who have been demanding clarity around plans for Britain’s departure from the EU. Longstanding issues such as uncompetitive electricity prices also continue to deter investment in UK manufacturing, said Gareth Stace, the director-general of UK Steel, the trade association of the industry.
“Many of our challenges are far from unique to steel — the whole manufacturing sector is crying out for certainty over Brexit,” Stace said. “Unable to decipher the trading relationship the UK will have with its biggest market in just five months’ time, planning and decision making has become nightmarish in its complexity.”
Greybull Capital, which bought British Steel in 2016 for a nominal sum, said turning around the company was always going to be a challenge. It praised the trade union and management team, but said Brexit-related issues proved to be insurmountable.
“We are grateful to all those who supported British Steel on the attempted journey to resurrect this vital part of British industry,” it said in a statement.


Oil prices climb on improving US demand signs, OPEC agrees to meeting date

Updated 32 sec ago
0

Oil prices climb on improving US demand signs, OPEC agrees to meeting date

  • After swelling to near two-year highs, US crude stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels last week
  • Members of the OPEC agreed to meet on July 1

TOKYO: Oil prices rose nearly 2 percent on Thursday on signs of improving demand in the United States, the world’s biggest crude consumer, and as OPEC and other producers finally agreed to a date for a meeting to discuss output cuts.
Brent crude futures rose $1.13, or 1.8 percent, to $62.95 a barrel at 0611 GMT. They dropped 0.5 percent on Wednesday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 90 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $54.66 a barrel. WTI fell 0.26 percent in the previous session.
“It’s a very mixed bag of factors. In the US (oil) demand is likely to be picking up into summer and the OPEC meeting looks like there’s going to be an extension or even more cuts is a possibility,” said Phin Zeibell, senior economist at National Australia Bank.
After swelling to near two-year highs, US crude stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels last week, compared with analyst expectations for a draw of 1.1 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
Refined products also posted surprise drawdowns due to a rise as gasoline demand ticked higher on a weekly basis and surged 6.5 percent from a year ago.
Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to meet on July 1, followed by a meeting with non-OPEC allies on July 2, after weeks of wrangling over dates.
OPEC and its allies will discuss whether to extend a deal on cutting 1.2 million barrels per day of production that runs out this month.
Momentum for an agreement appeared to be building as the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister told Al-Bayan newspaper that an extension is “logical and reasonable.”
Expectations the US Federal Reserve could cut interest rates at its next meeting and confirmation that the chief US trade negotiator will meet his Chinese counterpart before a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping next week are also supporting markets.
“Fresh stimulus from the largest economies will greatly improve the demand side argument. A positive outcome with the US — China would be icing on the cake,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at brokers OANDA.
Tensions remain high in the Middle East after last week’s tanker attacks, which boosted oil prices. Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted, with Washington blaming Tehran, which has denied any role.
In the latest escalation, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have shot down a US “spy” drone in the southern province of Hormozgan, the Guards’ news website Sepah News said on Thursday.
“The geopolitical side is the wild card and can’t be predicted, not just the Iran concerns but also the trade meeting between Trump and Xi,” said Zeibell, adding “we expect to see an improvement in oil prices over the next month or two.”