UNIONS have reacted with dismay to reports of a possible Corus buy-up involving controversial Indian businessman Lakshmi Mittal.

Corus, which employs about 3,600 workers on Teesside, is said to have been in informal talks with Mr Mittal's LNM group over the sale of some of its UK operations.

LNM is seeking to expand its UK market share and its options could include a takeover of one or more of Corus's most efficient plants, with works at Teesside a possible target.

Both parties have tried to quell the rumours. An LNM spokesman said: "Chief executives of steel companies talk to each other regularly but we cannot comment on whether there has been any specific contact with Corus."

Tony Poynter, chairman of the Teesside multi-union committee, said: "With the current uncertainty it is no surprise to get this kind of speculation. But if it is true, it would be bad news. Lakshmi Mittal has a reputation for taking on ailing companies and stripping them of their assets.

"It would make no sense for Corus to sell its assets to a competitor. It needs to keep all of its plants intact and move forward with help from the banks to do that."