Photo: AAP/David Mariuz – Sanjeev Gupta greets workers on his visit to Arrium.
Executive Chairman of the GFG Alliance, Sanjeev Gupta has met steelworkers at the Whyalla integrated plant and pledged to work tirelessly with management, staff and unions to forge a sustainable future for the whole Arrium business in Australia.
He said the skills of the workforce and the quality of the firm’s products, combined with innovative business strategies and valuable synergies with the global GFG organisation, would provide the basis for a more secure and successful future.
The international entrepreneur was meeting management and staff at the iconic plant for the first time since GFG sealed the deal to buy the 5,500-employee business out of administration.
Since then the buyer has cleared the two vital hurdles en-route to completing the landmark acquisition at the end of August.
The Australian Government’s Foreign Investment Review Board and the Arrium creditors committee have both given the green light to the transaction, clearing the way for GFG’s top management to begin laying the groundwork for a new era for the huge steel and mining enterprise, which had been in administration since April 2016.
Speaking at Whyalla Mr Gupta said: “The unanimous decision of the creditors’ committee puts an end to a period of prolonged uncertainty for the Arrium workforce. It allows them to look more confidently to the future as they become a part of our large and multi-skilled alliance of international businesses.”
He praised the ‘patience and resilience’ of the workforce and management during the period of the administration. “In the midst of all of this uncertainty the people in the front line at Arrium stuck firmly to their jobs and that is what has given us this opportunity to build a better future for the business,” he said.
The senior GFG team spent several hours at the 1500-employees Whyalla plant discussing strategies for the recovery of the business following this period of instability. This included discussions on renewable energy generation both for the steelworks itself and the South Australia grid.
Afterwards Mr Gupta said: “We have developed a comprehensive plan that we are confident will secure a long-term future for this operation and the community who depend on it. That includes reducing the cost of iron ore feed, modernisation of key equipment, the installation of clean and cost-effective energy generation capacity, expanding production and creating downstream manufacturing opportunities. We are also eager to boost export markets for Arrium products and to capitalise on new links between our Australian steelmaking operations and our rolling mills in the UK.”
He said the Arrium businesses fitted very well into the GFG Alliance’s GREENSTEEL vision for an integrated value-added global business, based on low carbon, sustainable production methods. Following their visit to Whyalla, Mr Gupta and the GFG team will move on to the One Steel works at Laverton near Melbourne, site of a steel melting and rolling operation employing approximately 300 people.
GFG’s acquisition of Arrium has been applauded by UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox who said: “I welcome the news that such an investment by a British consortium will help share expertise between our manufacturing sectors and safeguard thousands of jobs. The UK is the second largest investor in Australia with over £220 billion of investment, and as Secretary of State for the Department for International Trade, an international economic department, I look forward to ever more opportunities between our two trading nations as the UK leaves the EU.”
The acquisition of Arrium builds on GFG Alliance’s track record of acquisitions and turnarounds in the UK where it is now a key player in the metals, engineering and energy sectors. To date the group has secured the jobs of more than 4,500 industrial workers in the UK through its Liberty House and SIMEC businesses.