TAKING BIDS: On Big River Steel.

A metals industry publication says Big River Steel, the startup in Mississippi County aided by millions in taxpayer subsidies and an equity investment from the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, may be sold and potential buyers include Nucor, the competitor with operations in Mississippi County.

AMM.com says bids are being taken. But it’s ambiguous on what’s to come. It may be sold. The request for bids may be to establish a market value for a possible public offering. A minority partner might want to capitalize on an increase in value and sell its share now. The Koch family is the major investor. ATRS owns 20 percent of the enterprise.

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The mill has expanded since its inception. The state floated $125 million in bonds for the project and provided $200 million in tax incentives, along with equity investment from a fund built by state contributions to teacher retirement.

A Nucor purchase would be somewhat ironic. It fought the huge corporate welfare the state gave Big River, having received only a tiny bit in its startup days.

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More on the speculation in the Blytheville Courier.

UPDATE: I asked George Hopkins, director of ATRS, about the Big River investment and he responded:

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The ATRS investment in Big River Steel is a strong and safe investment. ATRS has not attempted to sell its minority ownership position in Big River Steel and has not received any proposal related to selling its minority ownership position in Big River Steel. ATRS is extremely pleased with its investment in Big River Steel and ATRS looks forward to working with management and the other owners to grow and expand Big River Steel as we all contemplated doing when Big River Steel was formed. Big River Steel continues to outperform its financial plan by a wide margin. This success has attracted tremendous interest, especially as Big River Steel is set to embark on a significant expansion project in northeast Arkansas. Any questions regarding strategic matters should be directed to the company.