Privatisation gone mad - British Steel to be sold to dubious Turkish military fund

It is beyond parody. Having asset stripped the UK by selling off public service functions at knock-down prices to foreign-owned and offshore companies; leaving the British people with possibly the worst health service in Europe and an over-priced, uncomfortable, and unreliable transport network; having sold off the all important nuclear energy sector to the French; now it appears that the UK government will allow the strategically vital steel industry is come under Turkish control, op-ed by Gary Cartwright. 

Turkey’s military pension fund OYAK has reached a provisional agreement to take over British Steel, it said on Friday (August 16th), adding it planned to close the deal by year-end. It described the potential deal as “one of the biggest achievements of the Turkish steel industry”.

Britain’s second-largest steelmaker currently employs under 5,000 workers and produces high-margin steel products used in construction and railways. It supports a further 20,000 jobs in its supply chain. 

“We will continue to make our investments for the high benefit of our members and to take domestic and international steps with our growth-focused vision,” said OYAK General Manager Suleyman Erdem. 

“It is expected that the due diligence process will be completed in October and if it is finalised successfully the transfer of the company will be completed by the end of this year,” OYAK said.

The privatisation of the British Steel Corporation in 1988, which became British Steel Plc, has been a disaster despite a promising start which saw the company move into profit during it second year of operation. However, after the company merged with the Dutch Koninklijke Hoogovens in 1999, things started to go horribly wrong. Within a year the new partnership, known as Corus, was losing £20 million a month, and shedding employees by the thousands. Corus was bought by India's Tata Steel in 2007, and then sold on to private equity firm Greybull Capital for £1, who revived the British Steel name.

British Steel, thoroughly asset stripped, is currently in insolvency. What is left of the industry remains largely under Indian ownership.

But back to Oyak. How does an army pension fund, chaired by an army General and which was born out of the country’s 1960 military coup, acquire assets of £15 billion? Let us see.... 

A 2012 130-page report by a Turkish Parliamentary Commission cited several deals, including one in which Oyak allegedly obtained construction permits to build a military barracks on government-owned land but instead built much more lucrative private residential apartments.

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

The Guardian has reported on a Turkish car plant that Oyak jointly owns with French car company Renault, which has been the subject of frequent labour disputes, one of which resulted in Britain’s largest trade union Unite condemning the “criminalisation” of workers.

This is not a legitimate pension fund as we would know it, these are corporate raiders.

UK business secretary Andrea Leadsom and steel minister Nadhim Zahawi have attracted criticism from within the steel industry for both being on holiday at a crucial moments of negotiations with Oyak and its subsidiary concerning their acquisition of British Steel.

Had the government really wanted to protect the industry, and to preserve jobs, it might have heeded the words of British steel workers who were furious to learn that the steel required for new Royal Navy submarines to replace the current Trident fleet would be sourced from French firm Industeel.

This government doesn’t seem to understand that there is a crisis in the UK steel industry. The Steel Council and even the government itself recommended new procurement rules so UK steel companies would be on a level playing field when tendering for contracts... Once again our members have been betrayed by a government that seems to be completely unwilling to put its money where mouth is to protect British jobs.

GMB national officer Dave Hulse

It would appear that the current UK government, like its predecessors, has no concept of the value of strategic assets, only short term profit, and damn the long term costs to future generations.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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