Tata Steel is expected to announce plans to sell its entire UK business, according to reports. The decision is understood to have been made at a board meeting in India's financial capital, Mumbai on 29 March.
The Indian company revealed plans to cut 1,000 jobs at its UK steel plants – including 750 at Port Talbot in south Wales – in January. The latest news means that some 15,000 jobs could be at risk.
Union leaders appear to have failed in their efforts to convince the board to keep steelmaking at Port Talbot – Britain's biggest steelworks – after travelling to Mumbai. Other plants in the UK that will be affected include Rotherham, Corby and Shotton.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood took to Twitter to express her shock at the news. She posted: "If reports from Mumbai are true, it's devastating. @Plaid_Cymru wants Assembly recall. All must work together now to save our steel industry."
All eyes now on a potential buyer
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock was also in India with the delegation and slammed the government for not sending a representative to lobby the board. Tata has pointed the finger at cheap Chinese imports coupled with soaring energy costs.
Speaking after the news broke on 29 March, Kinnock said: "We will not allow the closure of Port Talbot Steel works. One way or another we will continue to make steel in Port Talbot but it looks like Tata do not back the plan." He added: "We will work with Tata and the UK government to help find a buyer for the plant."
A key focus will be on ensuring that the business now finds itself in the right hands. "We expect them to stand by their word and be a responsible seller. They always said they would so let's see the actions," Community Union spokesman, Barrie Evans told Sky News.
"We will fight to secure this plant, we know with the correct support we can make it profitable," he added. "This is a national asset. We can't allow it to go from our country. It's probably not the news we were expecting. The Community will fight for this plant.
"We know we will make it a profitable business. I would urge any buyer to back us and stick with us."
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was "deeply concerned" about the development and called on the government to step in. "The government must intervene immediately to protect UK jobs and British manufacturing," said Corbyn.
GMB union national officer David Hulse accused Tata of bottling it at a pivotal moment. "The plan that was presented to the board deserved to be given time to see if the market improved and it just goes to show what we have thought for a long time, that Tata wanted out and have misled everyone," he said.
"Our members have done everything that has been asked of them and, just when it was needed, Tata lost their nerve," Hulse added.