LONDON (Reuters) - Liberty House, the industrial arm of British steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, said on Wednesday it had made a binding offer for miner Rio Tinto’s (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) aluminum smelter in Dunkirk, France, the largest in Europe.
The group said it had chosen to invest in France in part because of a pro-business environment created by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government.
Rio Tinto said in a statement that the offer was worth $500 million “subject to final adjustments’ and that it expects to complete the sale by the second quarter.
Liberty House executive Jay Hambro told Reuters the group would invest 2 billion euros ($2.4 bln) in Dunkirk, with plans to build an auto components factory to process the aluminum into a higher-value added product.
Liberty’s offer triggers a statutory consultation with employees and other stakeholders and could, if successful, lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, both onsite and in the wider economy, the company said.
“This is GFG’s first significant step into continental Europe, which we hope to build on ... not only investing in aluminum, steel and automotive, but also bringing our other divisions including energy, banking and property development to explore opportunities in France and Europe,” said Gupta.
The GFG Alliance, a $10 billion metals, industrials and energy group, has been snapping up distressed industrial assets in Britain, Australia and the United States in the past few years.
Liberty House has spent hundreds of millions on acquisitions, including Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter in Scotland. The group has also approached Rio to buy its Australasian aluminum smelting unit, sources say.
Alf Barrios, Rio Tinto’s chief executive for aluminum said: “The binding offer ... represents the best option for the development of the site while also delivering value for Rio Tinto as we continue to streamline our portfolio.”
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, who took charge in July 2016, is moving to divest all but the company’s best-performing units.
Under the GFG Alliance, Gupta owns assets around the world that span steelmaking, aluminum smelting, engineering, renewable and non-renewable energy, commodities trading, shipping, property and finance.
Last year, the privately owned GFG Alliance struck a deal with UK-based tidalpower firm Atlantis Resources ARL.L to form a listed company, SIMEC Atlantis Energy, which marked Gupta’s first step onto the stock market.
Further such steps are expected this year, most likely the listing of a steel asset in the United States.
Reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Susan Fenton