UK: My best deal - Swraj Paul, chairman of Caparo Group. (2 of 2)

UK: My best deal - Swraj Paul, chairman of Caparo Group. (2 of 2) - Part of Caparo, the Tredegar plant employs 120 people, produces 75,000 tonnes of tubing a year and profits of £2.7 million.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Part of Caparo, the Tredegar plant employs 120 people, produces 75,000 tonnes of tubing a year and profits of £2.7 million.

Breaking into a market dominated by British Steel was not easy. One company said that it was keen to do business with Paul but kept putting him off. When, after three months, it did agree to see him, he was kept waiting for two and a half hours. He exacted his revenge. "In the end we bought the company," he beams. "That manager did very well, working for us."

Natural Gas Tubes is now the second largest tube maker in the UK after British Steel. "Out of all the people who went on to the industrial estate, we're the only ones to have paid our money back and survived," he boasts.

The factory laid the foundation for Caparo Group. Paul went on to acquire businesses, most of them in decaying industries. His one bad purchase, of Fidelity, the radio manufacturer, came when, instead of trusting his own instinct, he listened to the City and bought a "sunlight" company. Contrary to what its books said, Fidelity was in a hopeless state. After paying £14 million, Caparo was forced to write off £11 million.

When it comes to good old-fashioned metal bashing, however, Paul is on much safer ground. Caparo owns 75% of United Merchant Bar (a highly profitable steel rolling mill in Scunthorpe) and a substantial tube operation in the United States. In 1989 he made his biggest buy to date, paying £96 million for Armstrong Equipment, the industrial fastener and engineering company.

But, for all that success, Paul's heart lies in South Wales. "From an emotional and sentimental view, I've got enormous attachment to that factory. Building it was the most important thing I've ever done in the UK."

(Chris Blackhurst is City editor of the Sunday Express.)

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