The entire follow-on public offer (FPO) of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) might take place this financial year and not in two tranches if the market conditions are ripe, says Steel Secretary Pradeep Kumar Misra. In an interaction with Nayanima Basu, he also says the steel ministry’s recommendations should be addressed in the proposed Mines and Minerals Development and Regulations Act. Excerpts:
What are your views on the proposed Mines and Minerals Development and Regulations Act and when do you think it will see the light of the day?
We have raised certain issues which we think should be addressed by the Ministry of Mines. The ministry should have a look at it and ultimately the competent forum is the empowered group of ministers, to take a final view and see that the concerns of all stakeholders are taken care of. They will only decide on this when this Act will see the light of the day. As we see it, the issues that need to be addressed are amendments to be put in place under the new Act which will safeguard the interests of the steel industry. This is because we are going to see a major rise in the demand for steel in the coming years. Thus, unless we are geared to supply the required amount of steel, it will come in the way of the country’s development. There has to be a balance between the producers and the people who are going to be displaced as a result of mining.
When is SAIL’s FPO likely to hit the market? Is it not too late already?
The SAIL FPO will definitely happen this financial year. It depends on the market conditions at that point of time. Before hitting the market with the FPO, some due diligence needs to be done which would get completed hopefully by December. The FPO will hit the market as soon as the necessary norms are followed as per the guidelines of the Securities and Exchange Board of India. We are on schedule and depending on the market condition then both tranches (of the divestment) can happen this year.
What are your views on banning exports of iron ore from the country? Are you still pursuing the finance ministry on the issue?
The finance ministry is likely to look into the matter during the time of the next Budget. This is a dynamic situation and so it has to be reviewed from time to time every year. We have to look at the long-term requirement of our country before we take a view on how much needs to be exported and if there is feeling that we need to conserve our resources, then we need to take a call on that. Resources keep increasing or decreasing as both prospecting and exploitation continues. We need to take a long-term view on this issue.
What about the stalled projects of Posco, ArcelorMittal and others? What is the ministry doing in this regard?
For the projects to take off, the issue of mining leases needs to be sorted out, which is not really under our purview. It is very much under the domain of the state government and the ministries of mines and environment. The steel ministry is not directly concerned. We would definitely like to see a robust steel industry, looking at future demand. But the decisions have to be taken by the ministries concerned. We hope they will take the right decision.
Do you think India is lagging in the production of value-added steel? Compared to 2009-10, how much steel production are you expecting in this financial year?
Yes, India needs to increase its presence in value-added steel. It also involves high efficiency in production, leading to lower power consumption and better input utilisation. All this is currently underway. In terms of finished steel, we are looking at a production of 62 million tonnes from 59.7 million tonnes last financial year.