***HOTLINE: Tata Kirby

Shrill statements and some celebration dribbled into the UK press last week at the news that Tata Steel Europe ceo Kirby Adams was to step down later this year. Most of it was hot air

Shrill statements and some celebration dribbled into the UK press last week at the news that Tata Steel Europe ceo Kirby Adams was to step down later this year. Most of it was hot air.

GMB national secretary Keith Hazlewood whipped his audience into a frenzy, telling them Adams’ departure made the sale of the company’s Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant more likely.

MPs quickly joined in. The erstwhile champion of Redcar’s steelworkers, former MP Vera Baird, might not have been around as much since the recent general election, but there are plenty of others to stand in.

“I believe Adams relished antagonistic confrontation rather than forging partnerships,” Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland told the UK’s Guardian newspaper. “This change shows how sensible Tata are, and how they value their position both in the UK and internationally.”

Right.

It’s extremely unlikely that Adams’ departure marks a change in Tata Steel’s strategy with regards to TCP. As a production facility, it doesn’t make any sense for the company to keep it churning out slab for the merchant market. Particularly at present prices.

As an asset, it’s a hard sell as well. The high cost of making semis in the UK means it only makes sense for a mill with a lot of re-rolling capacity. There aren’t many about who need 4 million tpy of slab.

One of the few, Thailand’s SSI, is already thought to be in negotiations with Tata - negotiations begun by Adams. His replacement, former ThyssenKrupp big-shot Karl-Ulrich Köhler, will pick up the reins and will no doubt argue the case on its merits, and any amount of political posturing and rabble rousing in the media isn’t going to help him finish them.

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