Liberty House has confirmed that it had signed a provisional agreement with Tata Steel UK to acquire Britain’s largest steel pipe mills, based at Hartlepool.

Liberty, fronted by Sanjeev Gupta, will now conclude discussions with a range of stakeholders on a support package that will help facilitate the rescue of the remaining 140 jobs at the mills and the recruitment of additional staff. It is believed that the support package will help stabilise and grow the business through upskilling new product development.

The 42-inch and 84-inch longitudinal submerged arc welded (LSAW) pipe mills at Hartlepool make heavy-duty steel pipe for the energy, power and construction industries in the UK and throughout the world.

Liberty recently acquired Tata Steel's Speciality Steels business in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the West Midlands, and recently announced the purchase of Caparo Industries merchant bar mills in Scunthorpe, where another 145 jobs have been saved.

It also comes days after the announcement of a deal for the GFG Alliance, of which Liberty is part, to acquire Australia's flagship integrated steel producer, the Arrium Group, including mining, metal recycling, steel making and a variety of steel mills, employing a total of over 5,500 people.

The addition of the Hartlepool pipe mills makes Liberty one of Britain's largest industrial employers with a workforce of around 5,000 people.

The acquisition is claimed to be good news for Liberty’s plate mills in Scotland as its Dalzell and Clydebridge plants would be able to supply steel plate to the Hartlepool operation. Liberty intends to upgrade its steel making facilities in Australia and the plate mill at Dalzell so that they are capable or producing high-grade API plate capable of being rolled into large diameter LSAW pipes at Hartlepool for oil and gas pipelines globally.

“This is set to become an important addition to our group," said Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the Liberty House Group. "Hartlepool has world class LSAW pipe mills, and a skilled workforce, with a long history and recognition worldwide. This step will inspire investments not only in Hartlepool but also in our upstream plate mill at Dalzell, and potentially also slab from the steel shop at Whyalla in Australia in due course, to give us a fully-integrated world class capability to supply pipeline projects."

According to Gupta, the Hartlepool pipes business has faced difficulties in recent times due to the downturn in the UK oil and gas sector. "But we are eager to begin working with management and staff here to regain former market share and explore expansion into new areas," he said, adding that Liberty aims to engage with all customers of the business locally and internationally to regain market share.

The 42-inch and 84-inch LSAW mills being acquired by Liberty have a combined production capacity of over 250kt/yr. Under the planned agreement, a neighbouring 20-inch mill, which makes high frequency induction (HFI) pipe, would remain part of Tata Steel UK as it is linked to the company’s strip products business centred on steelmaking in Port Talbot.