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Photograph: Photo by Karoly Lorentey, used under CC BY

India's Tata Steel on Monday said it has agreed to sell its loss-making European long products division for a "nominal" fee, potentially saving 4,400 jobs in Britain and 400 jobs in France.

Tata Steel agreed to sell the Long Products Europe division to British-based private investors Greybull Capital, who will take over the division's "assets and relevant liabilities," the company said in a statement.

"This sale is the best possible outcome for employees who have worked relentlessly to ensure the business's survival, and helped to make it attractive to a potential buyer," said Bimlendra Jha, head of Tata Steel's Long Products Europe business.

Hans Fischer, head of Tata Steel's European operations, said the deal had been completed under "challenging market conditions in Europe with the soaring levels of imports from China."

Some 4,000 of the affected jobs are at Britain's Scunthorpe steelworks, where Paul McBean, chairmain of the plant's multi-union committee, said the agreement was "unbelievable news."

"We have saved the local steel industry, thousands of jobs, the town and the community as a whole," McBean told the Scunthorpe Telegraph.

The sale also includes two steel mills, a workshop and a design consultancy in Britain, as well as a mill in northern France.

Sajid Javid, the British government's business secretary, welcomed the agreement as "a step in the right direction for the long-term future of British steel manufacturing in Scunthorpe."

"We will now look through the detail and stand ready to provide funding on a commercial basis if required," Javid said.

He said the government was "working tirelessly to ensure that we can now reach a deal for Port Talbot and the other Tata sites across the UK."

"This agreement sends positive signals to any potential investor for the rest of Tata’s UK business," he said.

Javid is scheduled to address parliament later Monday on efforts to find a buyer for Tata's steel plant at Port Talbot in south Wales, which employs some 4,000 people.

Tata Steel is part of the Indian-based Tata Group, which employs some 80,000 people worldwide.

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