Lanarkshire was just the start for Sanjeev’s ambitious plans

Sanjeev Gupta
Sanjeev Gupta

Sanjeev Gupta has taken Scotland by storm in the past two years, hammering out a robust footprint across the steel, aluminium and hydro-power sectors.

The Indian tycoon brought the Dalzell and Clydebridge steel-rolling mills back from the brink in the spring of 2016.

The businessman, whose empire spans 30 countries, said: “My dream is to make steel again.

“We roll steel in Scotland at the moment but, with Ravenscraig, Scotland was once a great, proud steel producer and that heritage has been lost.”

While it is too early to put a time frame on fulfilling his dream, Sanjeev still cites a plentiful supply of scrap north of the Border and “plenty of greenfield and brownfield sites”, not least around Ravenscraig, as conducive factors for a second golden age of steelmaking.

Originally a commodities trader, Sanjeev has used his GFG Alliance business to make inroads in Scotland.

The Dalzell plate mill in Motherwell and the Clydebridge plant in Cambuslang were mothballed by Tata Steel in 2015 but rescued by GFG’s Liberty House metals subsidiary in 2016.

In an unusual deal, the Scottish Government bought the plants from Tata before selling them to GFG and Sanjeev is full of praise about the role First Minister Nicola Sturgeon played.

He said: “Tata closed the mills but would not let them go and we wanted the business.

“Nicola Sturgeon and Holyrood were relentless in their quest for what was good for the workers.”

The relationship with Holyrood has been a critical factor in GFG pursuing its wider ambitions.

Sanjeev said: “If I’m honest, the most overriding motivation has been the Government; it has been exemplary. The pace it has acted at, it has not just been an enabler but a good participant too.”

When Ms Sturgeon formally re-opened the Dalzell plant in September 2016 she hailed it as “a fantastic day for Dalzell workers, for Motherwell and for Scotland’s steel industry”.

Later that year, Sanjeev paid £330 million to buy a largely unloved aluminium smelter plant and two hydro power stations in Fort William, again with Holyrood riding point.

GFG has won planning permission from Highland Council for a 400-worker alloy wheel factory next to the renamed Liberty British Aluminium shelter and will be the UK’s only large-scale alloy wheel plant.

“Everybody wanted to close the Fort William site,” said Sanjeev, “but Holyrood did not want that to happen.

“It was a mediocre aluminium site because of its size and location.

“But the government came to us as it felt it was attractive; it plugged supply chain gaps. Those types of relationships are rare with governments.”

Sanjeev is now planning a £170 million windfarm at Glenshero in the Highlands to provide more green power for Scottish industry.

And part of the plan is making towers for Scottish wind turbines using plate steel from the Dalzell mill.

Sanjeev said: “I’m very happy we received planing permission and now we can crack on.”

Aluminium from the Fort William smelter will be used to manufacture up to two million wheels a year for the British car industry, with production starting in 2020.

Sanjeev believes the opportunities are significant, as the UK imports virtually 100 per cent of its car wheels.

He said: “We make two million cars a year; that’s eight million wheels and we can probably get a quarter of that output.”

He has also brought the Edinburgh-based tidal power firm Atlantis Resources into his business empire in his determined push for renewable energy.

“The world is turning renewable but at a pace that is surprising to me,” he said. “Solar is by far the cheapest renewable but it is not predictable, like tidal power.

“The world has a big problem with waste but this turns a challenge into an opportunity.

“It is ground-breaking to be going from fossil fuels to renewables and our generation is on the cusp of it – it is a great privilege.”

Other businesses Liberty House has taken over include Livingston-based Shand Cycles, adding to its Trillion bike manufacturing operations in the Midlands.

Sanjeev added: “It’s small but dear to our heart and we see it as a good opportunity.”

GFG now employs 450 workers in Scotland, with the wheel factory set to nearly double that. New steel jobs in Lanarkshire will depend on the speed with which the industry picks up.