An historic Newport-based steel firm has been put up for sale by its owner Tata Steel Europe.

Orb Electrical Steelworks, which employs around 350 people in the city, and which is referred to as Cogent by Tata is one of five companies across the globe to be put up for sale by the steel giant.

The move comes after Tata undertook a detailed portfolio review of all its businesses to assess the strategic fit and the future potential.

The review resulted in Tata Steel Europe now looking for buyers for a number of its businesses so it can continue to strengthen its focus on strategic strip products and markets.

The sale process will cover five business units:

• Cogent, a manufacturer and processor of electrical steels based in Newport, Burlington, Canada and Surahammar, Sweden

• Kalzip, an aluminium roofing and cladding business based primarily in Germany

• Firsteel which coats steel for kitchen bakeware based in Walsall, West Midlands

• Tata Steel Istanbul Metals, a coil coating company using steel bought on the open market, based in Turkey

• Engineering Steels Service Centre (Wolverhampton) which is a stockholder and processes engineering steels, based in Wolverhampton.

Hans Fischer, CEO of Tata Steel’s European operations, said: “These potential sales follow the successful sale of other non-core businesses in recent years, such as Long Products Europe and Speciality Steels.

“Under new ownership these former Tata Steel businesses have found the focus to secure a more sustainable future. In turn, these divestments have allowed us to focus resources on making significant improvements to the core strip business, as part of our ambition to develop the most sustainable steel business in Europe focused on our IJmuiden and Port Talbot value chains.

“The customer bases for the businesses being sold are distinct from the rest of Tata Steel Europe. We want to find the best owner for each of these business units who can focus on their needs to help them realise their full potential.”

He said: “These potential sales would enable Tata Steel Europe to focus investment and management resource on its core strip products business and strategic markets.”

Following the potential sale of these business units, which employ a total of 1,100 people, Tata Steel Europe would continue to employ about 20,000 people manufacturing advanced products for the automotive, construction, engineering and packaging sectors.

The steelworkers trade union Community has said it is ‘yet to be persuaded’ of the case for sale of the businesses.

Responding to the announcement, Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of community and chairman of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee, said: “Clearly this will bring yet another period of uncertainty to hundreds of steelworkers across the UK and will be worrying news for many of them and their families.

“We are yet to be persuaded of the business cases for these proposed sales and we are calling on Tata to demonstrate that it is a responsible seller in practical terms by allowing time for the unions and our experts to look at the rationale behind today’s announcement.

“No sale agreements should be signed before full consultation has taken place.

“During our discussions with Tata about the merger with thyssenkrupp, we secured a commitment that there would be no asset closures and this principle must be upheld throughout this process and any sale.

“Potential purchasers need to have the best interests of these businesses at heart, honour the jobs pact we have secured and be prepared to invest.

“The skilled and experienced workforces within these businesses have delivered for their owners time and again – they deserve a sustainable future.

Jessica Morden, MP for Newport East, said: “This works has been in Newport since 1898 and is known across the world for excellent products. Everyone will know someone who has worked there at some point. It is a worrying time for the workers and their families.

"I am disappointed that TATA is selling Orb after all the energy and commitment the workers and the Trade Unions have put in over the years to ensure the plant’s future.

"Having spoken to managers at Orb they have told me that they have been seeing really good business results recently and that this a business with a positive future that will attract investors.

"It is imperative that TATA now ensure that this if this plant is to be sold, it is to a responsible employer. TATA owes it to the workers, their families and to Newport.”