The British steel industry suffered a severe blow as Tata, the Indian steel giant, confirmed fears that it was about to put its UK business up for sale.
Late on Tuesday the Indian group said it was "looking at strategic alternatives" to the current ownership "to explore all options for portfolio restructuring, including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts".
Earlier, union sources had revealed that the company was poised to announce the sale of its British steel operations, plunging several plants — at Port Talbot, Rotherham, Corby and Shotton — into uncertainty.
Steel workers had been waiting for days for a decision to be made by the Tata board 4,700 miles away in Mumbai over the fate of Britain's steelworks.
Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon — who had joined Community union officials in Mumbai to try to persuade the Tata board to keep Port Talbot, Britain's largest steelworks, open — told the South Wales Evening Post that the company intended to sell the steelworks.
Instead of the hoped-for approval of a rescue plan, Tata is intent on selling its UK businesses in a move that will come as a hammer blow to the remnants of one-time British Steel.
Tata painted a stark picture of the prospects for its UK business, saying that trading conditions in the UK and Europe had rapidly deteriorated recently due to "structural factors" such as global oversupply, increasing imports, high manufacturing costs and weak domestic demand. These were likely to continue into the future and had "significantly" affected the long-term competitiveness of its UK operations.