Bengal deal for Kulpi port
Refineries tide over diesel glut
Buyout bug bites Sandvik
Local lobbying on for top MCL post

Calcutta, Nov 4: 
The West Bengal government today signed an agreement with the Mukand-Keventer Consortium for setting up the state�s first minor port in the private sector at Kulpi, South 24-Parganas.

The port will also have an export-oriented special economic zone (SEZ).

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the port project was signed by Somnath Chatterjee, chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and Rajesh Shah, director of Bengal Port Ltd, a partner of the Mukand-Keventer consortium, in the presence of outgoing chief minister Jyoti Basu, at the latter�s residence.

Basu and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty also signed the MoU as witnesses.

The project has also received an �in-principle� clearance from the ministry of surface transport.

Following the clearance, the state transport department will sign an agreement with the Calcutta Port Trust for denotification of the waterfront where port facilities are to be created at Kulpi. The latter will then denotify the 3.5 km long waterfront at Kulpi from the limits of the port of Calcutta and hand over the same to the state government for development of the minor port.

The Rs 800 crore minor port project was conceived on October 5, 1994, following the state government�s industrial policy statement in September that year.

The Mukand-Keventer Consortium will hold 89 per cent of the equity while WBIDC will hold 11 per cent.

Basu later told reporters that his government�s efforts to make the state industrially viable would continue. He said the state government had received a letter from the Centre a few days back clearing the project. He hoped that the project, when implemented, would not only ensure industrial development of the area but also generate more employment.

Signing the MoU, Somnath Chatterjee, said the feasibility report for a special economic zone which will be set up on an 8,000 hectare land adjacent to the Kulpi port, is under preparation. The report has yet to receive the Centre�s approval.

Construction of the project will commence within the next 12 months after the state government signs the pact with the CPT, Rajesh Shah said, adding that construction was expected to be completed in two-and-a-half years.    

New Delhi, Nov 4: 
The diesel glut has practically disappeared with oil companies slowing down crude throughput. As a result, capacity utilisation by most refineries which used to be around 100 per cent in recent years has dipped.

According to oil industry circles, refineries have brought down their surplus stocks to manageable level and will ensure that they are not saddled with stocks in future.

Both Bharat Petroleum and Cochin Refineries which sought and obtained government permission to export surplus diesel are now confident of managing the situation without exporting diesel. Export of diesel is not an attractive proposition for Indian companies. None of the Indian refineries with the exception of Reliance Petroleum (RPL) has undertaken exports before. Monetarily they stand to lose by exporting.

The main reason for the unprecedented glut is the unplanned capacity of RPL which flooded the market. RPL�s original capacity was to be only 12 million tonnes per annum, though it was raised to 18 million tonnes later. The entire planning for the downstream market went out of gear when RPL entered with a capacity of 27 million tonnes. This coincided with slow growth in consumption. For the first time in several years, consumption growth for diesel turned negative for a couple of months.

However, the demand scenario has begun to look brighter since September with a consumption growth of 8.6 per cent against a little over 1 per cent the month before.

In recent years, September has been witnessing a surge in demand. The demand for petroleum energy is linked to the growth in gross domestic product, particularly industrial growth. In recent months, both have been stagnating.

Indian Oil was the worst hit by the diesel glut as most of its refineries are landlocked. The situation is better for BPCL and HPCL as their refineries are on the coastal regions. The Oil Coordination Committee (OCC) was in a fix over the question of managing the diesel glut. It did not ask them to prune throughput as such but its advice was to limit their throughput to the projections they submitted for the Oil Economy Budget.

In the past, oil companies used to exceed the MoU targets by a few percentage points. This will not be possible now. There is no precise estimate of the crude throughput loss. It could be about 3-4 million tonnes for the current fiscal.

In the present situation when the international prices of oil are soaring, any loss in throughput could be a welcome sign as it limits the oil import bill. But the ground reality is that Indian companies are unable to compete in the international market. The domestic situation would have been worse had the Essar refinery also gone into production.    

Calcutta, Nov 4: 
Sandvik Asia Ltd, a subsidiary of the $ 4.7 billion Swedish multinational Sandvik AV, is going ahead with major acquisition plans to double its sales turnover in three years time from Rs 157 crore in 1999. A senior Sandvik official said the company has drawn up an ambitious plan to raise its turnover by 50 per cent by the end of 2001. Acquisition, he said, is the cheapest route to capacity expansion.

The engineering giant which is the market leader in manufacturing cutting edge tools, is in talks with several players. The official, however, refused to divulge any details. Sandvik Coromant, the division which sells the cutting tools, has introduced a new tool, which the company said is at least 20 per cent faster than its previous versions.    

Calcutta, Nov 4: 
The coal ministry is under pressure to consider local interests for filling the top slot at a public sector coal company.

Local residents of Sambalpur, where Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) is based, including Prasanna Acharya, the local member of Parliament, have demanded the appointment of an Oriya as chairman and managing director of the coal PSU.

The Public Enterprises Selection Board had earlier postponed an interview for the selection of new MCL chairman for unexplained reasons. The interview was scheduled for October 30, with over 70 top coal mining and marketing experts vying for the post that fell vacant the next day, following the retirement of chairman S.N. Sharma.

The filling of the top slot at the Coal India subsidiary has become an emotive local issue with the powers that be in Delhi being subjected to intense lobbying by the Oriya brigade.

�This is the first time such a demand has risen for the appointment of the chairman of a public sector coal company. But the PESB is unlikely to bow down to such lobbying. Besides, the coal ministry hardly has anything to do with such appointment,�� said a top CIL official.

P.N. Sanmughan, minister of state for coal, who visited the headquarters of the coal company in September, had to confront several delegations, demanding the appointment of an Oriya at the helm of MCL.

The Oriya officer concerned is B.N. Misra, now the technical director of Bharat Coal Companies Ltd, (BCCL) and formerly technical director MCL, for two years.

A CIL source said that Misra is a candidate for the post along with a large number of directors and chief general managers of CIL and its subsidiaries.

�He is the only Oriya officer of his rank posted at MCL and is one of the candidates for CMD�s post...Many people smell foul play in his transfer which is construed as a conspiracy to prevent an Oriya officer from reaching the highest post in a CIL subsidiary,�� Acharya said in a note to the coal ministry, pleading Misra�s case.    


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