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Tata Steel has signed a definitive agreement for the £100m sale of its UK-based speciality unit to industrials group Liberty House, in a deal that will safeguard 1,700 jobs.

The transaction covers several steel mills in South Yorkshire, as well as four service centres in England and China. Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval, Tata Steel said.

It will bring relief to workers at the manufacturing sites near Sheffield, once known as the UK’s “steel city”, and further diminishes Tata’s presence in the UK steel industry.

The historic sector was plunged into crisis last spring when the Indian group said it wanted to quit the country after years of losses. Tata later revealed it was in talks over a possible European steel merger with ThyssenKrupp of Germany.

The speciality steels unit produces high-end metal for aircraft, oil drilling and cars, with customers including Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover.

For Liberty House, the acquisition is another piece in a UK industrial jigsaw it has been assembling through buying up distressed manufacturing assets, including the country’s last aluminium smelter in the Scottish Highlands.

The privately-owned group said the deal would secure “thousands more” jobs in the supply chain and regional economy.

Tata Steel UK is consulting its workforce on the closure of a £15bn pension fund. Its rump British steel operation, centred on the Port Talbot works in south Wales, will continue to employ 8,500 people.

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