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NTPC keen to be in foreign coal venture; steel ministry for rejig

NTPC keen to be in foreign coal venture; steel ministry for rejig
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First Published: Mon, Feb 08 2010. 11 13 PM IST

Wanting in: NTPC chairman and MD, RSSharma. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Wanting in: NTPC chairman and MD, RSSharma. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Updated: Mon, Feb 08 2010. 11 13 PM IST
New Delhi: NTPC wants to remain a part of International Coal Ventures Pvt. Ltd (ICVL), set up by the government to acquire overseas assets, so it can leverage the entity’s other constituents to secure coal resources, a top executive said.
The steel ministry is considering restructuring ICVL and has suggested that NTPC and another state-run firm, Coal India Ltd, exit from it.
ICVL’s other constituents are Steel Authority of India Ltd, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd and NMDC Ltd.
Wanting in: NTPC chairman and MD, RSSharma. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
“All the companies together have greater strength,” said R.S. Sharma, NTPC’s chairman and managing director. “We are keen to continue with the present arrangement.”
ICVL was set up by the five state-owned firms to secure coal companies, mines and blocks overseas, with a total equity capital of around $2 billion (Rs9,300 crore), but it has not been able to secure assets till date.
Steel minister Virbhadra Singh said on Sunday that NTPC and Coal India could exit ICVL if they did not want to participate in buying coal assets abroad, PTI reported.
Coal India chairman Partha S. Bhattacharyya did not respond to phone calls or a message to his cellphone.
“Let the government of India decide on the issue,” said Union power secretary H.S. Brahma. The power ministry oversees NTPC.
While ICVL was looking to acquire coal mines in Australia’s East Bargo area and in the US, NTPC and Coal India have been independently scouting for coal resources overseas.
Coal India has a wholly-owned subsidiary, Coal Videsh, to acquire coal mines abroad; NTPC is looking at mines in Mozambique, South Africa and Australia.
NTPC’s Sharma said the interests of the steel companies in the special purpose vehicle wouldn’t be affected as the utility was looking at independently sourcing only non-coking or thermal coal, whereas ICVL’s mandate was to source both coking and non-coking coal. “No one is working against each other,” he said.
Dipesh Dipu, an expert on the mining sector, said ICVL should try to resolve the issue.
“Equity investment in a growing concern may not be easy to monetize as an exit option, more so in a closely held government-owned company,” he said. “It may require fair value assessment of shares and replacement of shareholders, which may be other public sector undertakings, through sale and purchase.”
Coal is critical for NTPC as at least 80% of its installed capacity of 31,1354MW is coal- based. A majority of its coal-based projects don’t have sufficient stock of the fuel.
India has 256 billion tonnes of coal reserves, of which around 455 million tonnes (mt) is mined every year. The country imports around 40mt of coal.
But demand for coal is expected to reach around 2 billion tonnes a year by 2031-32, about five times the current extraction, with most of this coming from the power sector.
With 67% of India’s total power generation currently based on coal, the power sector is the major consumer of the fossil fuel in the country, absorbing nearly 78% of the total domestic production.
ICVL is competing with Chinese firms such as China Shenhua Energy Co. Ltd and Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. Ltd to acquire scarce coal assets overseas.
Analysts say bids by Indian miners tend to be uncompetitive as most Indian firms seek coal for their own end-use projects, while rival bidders may have higher-margin plans.
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First Published: Mon, Feb 08 2010. 11 13 PM IST