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British Steel was awaiting £30m disputed insurance claim

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British Steel was waiting on a £30m insurance claim before it collapsed into liquidation on Wednesday. The claim, which was disputed by insurers, was made after a blowout in a blast furnace at its Scunthorpe plant in June 2017. British Steel was left with only one furnace, costing it £47m in damages, repairs and lost business. The company submitted its claim to a group of insurers led by Zurich and Liberty Specialty Markets. After investigating it for nine months they turned it down in May last year on the basis of operational errors and technical points relating to the definition of damage. The steelmaker, which is owned by private equity firm Greybull Capital, began insolvency proceedings after talks with the government over an emergency £30m loan broke down. British Steel had appointed Mactavish, a specialist insurance consultancy, to look into the rejection of the claim. Mactavish says that it found “major deficiencies with the investigation” and that the claim should be settled in full. Bruce Hepburn, Mactavish chief executive, said that money from the claim “could have been decisive. If it is a covered claim, it will be an outrage that it hasn’t been paid.” The claim was resubmitted two months ago with new information. Mr Hepburn says that they have yet to hear back from the insurers. British Steel previously said it was confident that the costs would be covered by its insurance. “You would have thought that in two months they would have made a decision,” said Mr Hepburn.

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Zurich said that it had only recently had permission to share details of the case with external experts. It added: “We are currently in the process of working with British Steel to progress a complex property claim. We are reviewing all the evidence related to this claim, including additional information that has only recently been provided, and remain focused on resolving it as quickly as possible.” Liberty said: “We are working closely with British Steel to review a property claim in the light of further information recently provided by management. We look forward to resolving this matter promptly.” Mr Hepburn said that the policy should cover a blowout of molten material. “For insurers to ignore this and spend so long arguing over a complex mix of other contributory factors has clearly let British Steel down — just at the time when they needed support the most.” British Steel did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Greybull declined to comment. According to Mactavish’s research, 45 per cent of large or complex insurance claims are disputed and it takes an average of three years to resolve the disputes. When they are settled, claimants only tend to get 60 per cent of the original amount claimed.

Financial Times

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