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Minister choice leads SAIL race

New Delhi, March 25: SAIL’s director (commercial) A.K. Singh is unlikely to get an extension and is likely to be replaced by Rourkela Steel Plant managing director Sanak Mishra, known to be close to steel minister Braja Kishore Tripathy.

The only other serious contender for the slot is A.K. Rungta — a marketing man working as executive director — who heads the highly successful flat steels division. Flat steels has been performing well for SAIL despite stiff competition from several newcomers in the steel market.

Tripathy, a Biju Janata Dal member, is also known to have favoured the appointment of B.K. Panda, currently director (operations), as chairman-cum-managing director of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd, popularly known as Vizag Steel.

The Cabinet secretary is believed to have cleared his promotion today. This will now go to the Cabinet committee on appointment for clearance.

RINL is temporarily being headed by Bhilai managing director B.K. Singh, a man who is not being considered for the job wholetime though under his tutelage, Vizag, a perennially loss-making outfit, is likely to report a net profit of Rs 410 crore this year. Steel ministry officials said this feat has been noted and Vizag will be the recipient of this year’s Standing Committee of Public Sector Undertakings annual trophy for the best PSU achiever.

Mishra has been heading units such as research and development and corporate planning and does not have much marketing exposure, top-level steel ministry sources said, but he was likely to be chosen for the key marketing job.

Rourkela Steel Plant has not been doing too well over the last few years, mainly on account of an accumulated burden of high capital costs. This year, however, it has started reporting cash profits even though overall it still remains in the red.

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