Management buyout firm Excalibur and Indian-origin businessman Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty House, the two front-runners in the race to acquire Tata Steel’s UK assets, are believed to be considering joining forces, it emerged on Sunday. 

Excalibur, led by former chief of Tata Steel’s Port Talbot plant Stuart Wilkie, is considering backing Liberty House. 

An Excalibur delegation, including chief executive Wilkie and chairman Roger Maggs, held talks with Gupta on Friday at his London office, The Sunday Times reported. 

They are understood to have discussed backing Gupta’s plan to convert the vast steelworks into one fed by scrap metal rather than raw iron ore and coke. 

The Tata Group has set a deadline of noon on Monday for final bids for its British steel operations, with its board set to finalise a shortlist at a meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday, the report claimed. 

UK business secretary Sajid Javid is set to fly to Mumbai ahead of the sale and has offered to pump in hundreds of millions pounds of loans and take a 25 per cent stake to prevent the steelworks from collapsing.