Co-Steel Sheerness, the loss-making mini-mill which has been put up for sale by its Canadian owner, looks to be the next target for acquisitive steel group Ispat.
Union sources said Ispat representatives had visited the Kent mill which employs about 700 workers.
Ispat, which has its headquarters in London, refused to comment on the potential purchase. But in February, group chairman and chief executive Lakshmi Mittal said he was looking to buy more European mini-mills which, like Sheerness, produce steel rod used mainly in the construction industry.
Ispat has become one of the world’s most efficient steel producers, with operations from Cork to Kazakhstan.
The group has a record of turning round loss-making mills with often poor industrial relations. While there have been job cuts following acquisitions, Ispat has also made mills profitable using its expertise in mini-mills.
Sheerness seems a perfect fit. It may have an appalling industrial relations record, condemned by trade unions, politicians and even the UN’s International Labour Organisation, but it also has modern mini-mill technology which Ispat may be best placed to exploit.