Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus has signed a letter of intent to sell most of its aluminium operations to US firm Aleris International for £570 million.
If the deal goes through, the proceeds would clear the greater part of Corus's borrowings.
This would give Corus considerable financial fire-power for an acquisition.
Presenting full-year results Philippe Varin, chief executive, made it clear that he is in favour of moves to consolidate the worldwide steel industry.
To be a global competitor, he said, Corus needs to be involved in low-cost steelmaking outside Europe and North America. "Low-cost steel-making includes access to raw materials," he added.
Mr Varin took care to talk in terms of "partnership alliances" rather than outright acquisitions. He also noted that consolidation could mean being either a "consolidator" or a "consolidatee".
This is the second time that Corus has tried to sell its aluminium operations. In 2003, a disposal to French group Pechiney was blocked by the Dutch supervisory board and unions took the company to court.
Yesterday the works council of Corus Netherlands said it was against the sale, but Corus said it was confident it would be completed by the third quarter of this year.
Aluminium smelters in the Netherlands and Germany are not included in the deal, but Corus has negotiated a long-term supply agreement for Aleris to take their output.
"I am confident it will go through this time," Mr Varin said. "Conditions are not the same as three years ago. The financial situation of the group is completely different, while corporate governance issues and dialogue with the
Dutch supervisory board have been steadily improving.
"The supervisory board have already given their support to the disposal."
Mr Varin was presenting full-year results for 2005 showing profits of £580 million, up from £567 million on sales nine per cent higher at £10.14 billion.
Before restructuring, impairment and disposals the underlying operating profit was 14 per cent higher at £720 million. A 1p final dividend gives shareholders 1.5p for the year
The shares, fresh from rejoining the Footsie 100 index, bounced 9p to a new recent high of 8514p, 8.5 times the year's earnings and yielding 1.8 per cent.
The continuing profit improvement owes much to Mr Varin's Restoring Success programme, which has obtained benefits worth £555 million a year on the way to a target of £680 million by the end of 2006.