British billionaire who saved the Whyalla steelworks has bigger ambitions in the energy sector | AFR

British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta spent almost $700 million buying unloved steel businesses when he rescued the stricken Arrium in mid-2017 in his first foray into Australia, but he expects those operations will end up being dwarfed by a much larger energy division which is growing rapidly because of huge demand in a country grappling with soaring energy prices.

"Our energy business is probably going to be the largest business we do in Australia," Mr Gupta told The Australian Financial Review.

The industrialist, who runs Liberty House, teamed up with his father's company SIMEC under the banner of the GFG Alliance to officially take ownership of the former Arrium assets at the end of August and the early signs are good.

"It's already a profitable business," he said.

The assets comprise the Whyalla steelworks in South Australia, an associated iron ore mine in the nearby Middleback ranges, electric arc furnaces and mini-mills in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle, and a national steel scrap and recycling business that handles about 1.4 million tonnes of ferrous scrap annually.

More than 3500 people rely on the steelworks for employment in Whyalla, so he is lauded as a saviour. On December 22 he announced plans to proceed with a $1 billion upgrade of the Whyalla steelworks to lift its output by 50 per cent and modernise the technology in the plant.