AN "expression of interest" in buying the closure-threatened Orb Electrical Steels plant in Newport is being looked into by Tata Steel, the Argus has learned.

And a second approach has been made by another interested party, about pursuing a contractual arrangement with a potential new owner or operator, for processing hot rolled coils to grain orientated electrical steel.

No more details are available, and are unlikely to be any time soon. But the confirmation by Tata of these - albeit very different - expressions of interest, offers a glimmer of hope for a future for Orb.

It comes on a day when First Minister Mark Drakeford and economy minister Ken Skates visited the plant (below) to meet union representatives.

South Wales Argus:

Afterwards, Mr Skates told the Argus that the meeting had been "incredibly constructive", and that there is a need to ensure that Tata gives more time to Orb, with two expressions of interest having been made.

It was announced at the beginning of September that Tata intends to close Orb, which employs around 380 people, by the end of the year.

The plant has been cited by those striving to keep it open as ideal for producing the electrical steel required in the production of electric cars. It is the only such suitable plant for the purpose in the UK.

Several hundreds of people have already signed a petition from the South Wales Argus, calling for the UK Government to work with Tata Steel and to invest in the Orb plant.

Click here to download the petition: South Wales Argus Orb Petition.pdf

Print it out, sign it, get your friends and family to sign it, and drop it into the Argus office in Cardiff Road, Maesglas, Newport, NP20 3QN.

Mr Skates said there are "huge opportunities, particularly in the automotive industry" for a plant like Orb, and that the move toward electric vehicles is "taking place faster than anyone expected".

"If we are to be at the forefront of that automotive transition, then we must have the manufacturing capacity and supply chain in place," he said.

"With the right support there is no doubt the site can provide specialist steel.

"Our message to Tata will be to give sufficient time for the future of the site, to ensure any different ownership can be fully evaluated."

"We are also calling on the UK Government to show greater interest in the steel industry in Wales than it has in recent times, and to get the steel deal that has been talked about so often over the line."

He said the Welsh Government has stood behind the steel industry in Wales in the past, and "will continue to do so in the future".


Mr Drakeford said he and Mr Skates had met employees at Orb and had discussed "the things that they would like us as a government, to do alongside them.

"We will do our very best to protect steelmaking here on this fantastic site," he said.

"The key message we picked up is the importance of us communicating with Tata about giving sufficient time for some of the possibilities that may be emerging, for them not to do things in haste and close down possibilities for the future.

"We will use all the avenues we have.

"People are tremendously loyal to this plant. They have built families and futures around it.

"I think the key message is that they do not want any opportunity to be lost for sustaining steelmaking at this plant."

Alasdair McDiarmid, operations director at Community said the union welcomes the expressions of interest in Orb.

"Tata must allow the time to explore every avenue to secure the future of this strategic business," he said. 

"We know with the right ownership and government backing this business can be sustainable and become an integral part of a new supply chain for the production of electric vehicles.

"All stakeholders must work together to save the Orb and safeguard these high quality jobs for the local community.”

A Tata Steel spokesman said: “We can confirm we have had an expression of interest by a third party in buying the Orb Electrical Steels site in Newport, Wales.

“We are seeking to quickly determine the seriousness and potential of this.

“We can confirm we have received an expression of interest from a third party interested in entering a contractual arrangement with a potential new owner and/or operator of the Orb facility for processing hot rolled coils to grain orientated electrical steel.”