HUNDREDS of North-East steel jobs have been saved in a £400m deal – and officials have refused to rule out a bid to secure more threatened posts in the region.

Greybull Capital has bought Tata Steel’s loss-making Long Products division for £1, revealing it will trade under the British Steel name.

The investor has also fuelled speculation it could make an approach for Tata’s Hartlepool pipe mills, which is up for sale as the Indian firm sheds its entire UK operations to escape financial woes brought on by Chinese dumping and high energy costs.

The Northern Echo:

It has, however, dismissed fears the changes to Long Products could mean job cuts in the division’s 900-strong regional workforce, insisting a £400m package will fund day-to-day work and return it to profit, adding its existing management team will stay to oversee turnaround plans.

The Northern Echo understands the agreement, due to be completed within eight weeks, will not be affected by union ballots on cuts to workers’ pay and pensions at Tata, with staff minded to approve the temporary changes to push through the sell-off.

The Greybull agreement provides renewed hope for the beleaguered North-East steel sector, which has been rocked by thousands of redundancies after Redcar-based SSI UK’s liquidation and the closure of Caparo Industries’ Hartlepool forge.

However, while welcoming the deal, it was last night claimed the Government, which has confirmed it could co-invest with a buyer to save Tata’s plant in Port Talbot, Wales, must do more to help the region’s steel sector.

Anna Turley, below, who fought to keep SSI’s blast furnace burning, said: “The agreement shows there is a positive future for UK steel and that it will continue to make a vital contribution to the economy, including in Teesside.

“We have a highly-skilled and highly-motivated workforce whose commitment to their industry is the bedrock of this deal.

The Northern Echo:

“It is also reassuring Greybull intend to maintain staffing levels with no further job reductions other than those previously announced by Tata.

“This is some positive news in what has been a very difficult time for our steel industry.

“I hope a future is secured for Tata’s remaining UK assets and the thousands of jobs they support but it will take more government action to prevent a repeat of what happened to our blast furnace in Redcar.”

Roy Rickhuss, Community union general secretary, added: “Greybull's interest in the business is testament to the skills, experience and commitment of UK steelworkers and demonstrates that with the right investors UK steelmaking can have a positive future.

“The deal will be a huge boost to the UK steel industry but more Government action to support our industry will be needed to ensure its sustainable long-term future.”

Tata’s Teesside Beam Mill, at Lackenby, near Redcar, provides work for more than 200 staff, and previously supplied the new World Trade Center site, in New York, while its special profiles factory, in Skinningrove, east Cleveland, employs more than 360 people and is known for providing thousands of tonnes of steel, including pieces to help weld plates together, for the £6.2bn HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

The company also operates another special profiles base, which looks after steel finishing, in Darlington, has a design base in York, and runs a distribution hub in Blaydon, Tyneside.

Marc Meyohas, Greybull partner, said the investor is confident it can make Long Products a success.

He said: “We believe Long Products can become a strong business, with a highly-skilled workforce and great potential.

“I thank Tata, the trade unions and the British and French Governments for their support, which was essential in ensuring the agreement.

“We are now focused on taking the deal to completion in order that the business can start its next chapter with confidence.”

Tata says the Long Products agreement is the “best possible outcome for staff” and is now contacting businesses to sell its remaining assets, which include Hartlepool.

Hans Fischer, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, added: “Under these challenging market conditions with the soaring levels of imports from China, we are happy to have entered the final stage of completion of the sale.

“This will offer a future for the Long Products business.”