Turkish army pension fund in rescue talks with British Steel

The Official Receiver has named Ataer Holdings as preferred bidder for the British Steel business

The Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Fund known as Oyak has entered exclusive talks with the UK Government to buy British Steel.

Ataer is Oyak's investment arm the "preferred buyer" the official receiver said.

OYAK was set up in 1961, a year after the first military coup in modern Turkey, and has nearly 363,000 members. The fund, which has more than 19 billion dollars in assets, does this through its subsidiary Ataer.

The Guardian asked Oyak about its involvement in a corruption scandal in 2012, when a Turkish parliamentary commission accused it of orchestrating land deals that cost the exchequer tens of millions of lire.

A potential buyer has now agreed terms to buy British Steel as whole and to run it as a business.

"The UK steel sector has a potentially bright future, underpinned by increasing UK and global steel demand for our products, but the Government must recognise the need to address the business environment in the UK which now undermines our competitiveness".

The service said it had "received an acceptable offer from Ataer Holdings A.S. for the purchase of the whole business" and was focused on finalising the sale.

"I will be looking to conclude this process in the coming weeks, during which time British Steel continues to trade and supply its customers as normal".

Ataer, which invests funds for the Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Fund - or Oyak - already owns almost 50% of Turkey's biggest steel producer, Erdemir.

Ataer Holdings now has exclusive rights to look into Britain's second-largest steelmaker in greater detail over the next two months as part of due diligence.

The commission said deals such as these had helped to swell Oyak's coffers during the late 1990s at the expense of the Turkish treasury.

Closure of the company, which produces high-margin, long steel products used in construction and rail networks, would jeopardise 5,000 jobs in Scunthorpe, northern England, and a further 20,000 jobs in the supply chain.

He said: "Ataer requiring more steel for its "downstream" plants, means production in the United Kingdom could increase post-sale, which would be very good news for the domestic workforce".

Senior officials with the Unite union, which represents British Steel workers, met with the administrator on Thursday to talk about the proposed sale.

There had been fears of major job losses after the group, which had been owned by Greybull Capital, failed to secure a full financial rescue.

He added that "In this whole process it is essential that the Government plays its part in ensuring that the United Kingdom steel industry can compete on a level playing field with its competition, this includes action to reduce high use energy costs, business rates and a disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit, which not only impact on exports but would again see cheap steel dumped into the United Kingdom market".

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