Blackford satisfied ‘no threat’ to Lochaber smelter after Greensill bank collapse

The Alvance British Aluminium smelter at Fort William . Photograph: Iain Ferguson, Alvance-smelter01-scaled.jpg
The Alvance British Aluminium smelter at Fort William . Photograph: Iain Ferguson, Alvance-smelter01-scaled.jpg

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Following talks with GFG Alliance management and representatives of the Aluminium Federation on Tuesday afternoon, local MP Ian Blackford says he is satisfied there is no threat to the Lochaber smelter following the collapse of specialist bank Greensill Capital.

Greensill has been the main lender to the sprawling GFG empire of companies run by metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta and which includes the Alvance British Aluminium smelter at Fort

Mr Gupta is reported to have spent around $6 billion over a five-year period scooping up unwanted metal assets around the world, with Greensill by far his biggest financial backer.

Mr Gupta is said to have had a ‘productive meeting’ with trade unions on Tuesday to discuss the plan to make the parts of the UK businesses facing weak market conditions more financially sustainable and address the disruption caused by the situation at Greensill.

MP for Skye Ian Blackford. NO F15 Ian Blackford leaning
MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford.

Mr Blackford told us: ‘I am satisfied that there is no threat to the Lochaber smelter or any of the other Scottish operations. ALFED [Aluminium Federation] has also spoken to customers and stakeholders and has identified no threat to the Scottish operations.’

And constituency MSP Kate Forbes MSP added: ‘I recognise there has been widespread press coverage, but the priority here is to ensure the ongoing operation of the smelter and protection of the jobs.

‘I am not aware of any indication that the future of the smelter is at risk, but I will continue to do everything I can to ensure its long-term survival.’

GFG told the Lochaber Times this week that, as a whole, it is operationally strong and is benefiting from a 13-year high in steel prices, as well as strong markets in aluminium and iron ore.

‘While Greensill’s difficulties have created a challenging situation, we have adequate funding for our current needs. Through our global efficiency drive we’ve improved our operations’ margins, with most of our major businesses generating positive cashflows,’ said the company.

‘Discussions to secure alternative long-term funding are progressing well but will take some time to organise. While this takes place we have asked all of our businesses to manage cash carefully. We thank our employees, customers and suppliers for their continued support.’

Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson said: ‘This sort of news must be very worrying for staff and contractors. I would hope GFG management is doing its utmost to reassure those who depend on the company.’

Responding to the news, the chairman of the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust, John Hutchison, said: ‘Every few months we have been feeling this sort of tremor, though this one sounds more serious. The aim of the trust remains to acquire the land [ the 114,000 acres that came with purchase of the smelter] for the community to remove uncertainty over ownership.

‘Because the water rights go with the power stations the GFG Alliance doesn’t actually need to own the estate to be able to generate power.  Much of the water catchment is owned by other parties, Corrour and Ardverickie Estates for example, so the land being vested in the trust on behalf of the community would be perfectly possible and would threaten neither power generation nor the smelter.’