The process for selling Tata Steel’s UK plants will start by Monday but there is no set timeframe for it to be completed.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid revealed the details after a two-hour meeting with Tata officials in Mumbai, just over a week after the Indian conglomerate took the shock decision to sell its loss-making UK assets.
Mr Javid said Tata will allow a “reasonable amount of time” for the process to be completed.
The minister stressed that the government wanted to work with any prospective buyer, saying “a number” of people had already started coming forward.
“I would like to see many more come forward when the formal process begins,” he said.
Mr Javid met Cyrus Mistry, chairman of the Indian conglomerate, and other company officials to discuss the planned sale.
He said afterwards that he understood there would be some “issues” to deal with, such as power, which the government “might be able to help further with”.
The minister had been urged by unions to stress the need for Tata to act responsibly as a search for a buyer continues, and to allow enough time for the process to be completed.
Sanjeev Gupta, the head of the Liberty Group, held talks with Mr Javid on Tuesday and has raised hopes that jobs could be saved, especially at the huge plant in Port Talbot, South Wales.
Mr Gupta said: “UK government appears highly supportive and is proactively engaged in finding a long-term solution. We have also actively engaged with Welsh Government and again we are encouraged by their approach.
“The next step is for Tata to define the formal sales process and request indications of interest from potential buyers. We await further details on this and then will assess our own next step.
“Liberty has already proven its ability to build value from UK steel assets with our acquisition of our Newport Steel plant, Midlands engineering operations and most recently in Scotland where we acquired mills from Tata. Everyone is very motivated to find a solution.”
Meanwhile, workers are voting on temporary changes to terms and conditions as part of an impending sale of Tata’s giant steel plant in Scunthorpe.
Union members are being balloted on a 3 per cent cut in pay and a reduction in pensions, part of a “transformation plan” ahead of the expected sale to investment firm Greybull Capital.
Negotiations over the sale of the plant, which employs around 4,000 workers, have been taking place for several months, well before Tata’s announcement last week.