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UK open to helping Liberty but needs clearer understanding, minister says

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Liberty Steel's Sanjeev Gupta pictured in Scotland

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain needs a clearer understanding of Liberty Steel's ownership structure before it agrees to any financial support, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Tuesday.

The steelmaker, which employs 3,000 people across Britain, has sought a 170 million pound ($234 million) emergency loan following the collapse of supply chain finance firm Greensill.

Liberty parent GFG Alliance was Greensill's largest client.

"I think it's a really important national asset and what we have to do is to distinguish between Liberty Steel and the company that sits above it," Kwarteng told BBC radio.

"All options at the moment are on the table," he said, but asked about Liberty's loan request, he added: "We are custodians of taxpayers' money and there were concerns about the very opaque structure of the GFG group."

"We feel that if we gave the money there was no guarantee that that money would stay in the UK and would protect British jobs."

GFG Alliance, led by Indian-born British businessman Sanjeev Gupta, has said that its steel and mining operations in Europe and Australia are booking record profits and had adequate funding.

In Britain, it said Liberty was also working with customers on the speed of payment terms while looking for additional working capital facilities.

($1 = 0.7258 pounds)

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Elizabeth Piper Writing by William Schomberg and Kate Holton)