At least four parties have submitted bids for the British assets of Tata Steel ahead of the Indian company's board meeting this week that could determine their fate, according to sources close to the bidders.
Tata said in March it wanted to offload its UK steel operation, throwing the sustainability of British steelmaking into question after a series of other plant closures, blamed on cheap Chinese imports, rising costs and weak demand.
Management buyout vehicle Excalibur Steel, Sanjeev Gupta's Liberty House metals group, India's JSW Steel Ltd and Greybull Capital have submitted separate bids for Tata's UK operations, the sources said.
Tata said earlier this month it had received seven notifications of interest. It declined to comment on Tuesday.
The government has offered hundreds of millions of pounds in support to the potential buyers as it seeks to avoid the political damage of around 10,000 job losses weeks away from the country's referendum on membership of the European Union.
After being accused of a flat-footed response to the initial announcement of the sale, British business minister Sajid Javid said he had met Tata in Mumbai to discuss the sale process ahead of its board meeting.
"Several credible bidders in play. Determined to keep momentum and find right buyer," he tweeted on Tuesday.
The board is expected to pick apart the bids and decide which warrant closer consideration.
Excalibur, led by Tata's UK strip products director Stuart Wilkie, and Liberty have put in separate bids, separate sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, responding to reports that the two were prepared to work together to secure a deal.
India's JSW Steel Ltd has also bid for the British operations of Tata Steel Ltd, sources confirmed earlier this month, which prompted concerns about its debt levels and putting pressure on its shares.
As of this week, JSW had no intention of withdrawing its bid, a source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters.
Greybull Capital, which in April signed a deal to acquire Tata Steel's Long Products Europe division in Scunthorpe, northern England, has also bid for the rest of the British operations, another source told Reuters. However, it is not widely regarded as a frontrunner.