Adani, Jindal bid for Tajpur port
Adani Group and Sajjan Jindal-led JSW have emerged as contenders to develop Bengal’s first greenfield port in more than 50 years. Tuesday was the last date for the submission of technical and financial bids for the proposed port at Tajpur in East Midnapore and an industrial zone associated with it.
Sources said Adani Ports & Special Economic Zones and JSW Infrastructure have thrown their hats in the ring.
In the two-step process, the technical bids of the parties will be opened first. If they qualify on the technical parameters, the government will then open and consider their price bids. The committee of secretaries, led by chief secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi, will take a call within the next two days to take the process forward.
Adani is now India’s largest private sector port operator with 13 ports and terminals on the east and west coast of the country, accounting for a 24 per cent of the nation’s port capacity.
The group, which has interest in the entire gamut of the logistics sector such as airports and rail, edible oil, green energy and power, is led by Gautam Adani, arguably Asia’s second richest man.
The buzz in the port and shipping circle is that Adani is keen to get a strategic foothold in Bengal and the Mamata Banerjee led government’s pet project at Tajpur fits the bill. The group recently entered the state’s maritime sector by taking over modernisation and mechanisation of a berth at Haldia port, not far from Tajpur. Gautam Adani and his son Karan met chief minister Banerjee twice in two months prior to the bid.
In comparison, the port business of JSW Group — which operates India’s largest private sector steel business — is at a nascent stage. It operates a port in Maharashtra but appears keen to expand its footprint in the east, especially to support its growing steel empire and fledgling cement business.
Moreover, Jindal has a 3,500-acre plot in Salboni, not far from Tajpur, which is under-utilised at present. The group can harness long-term strategic advantage if it becomes successful in the bid.
The initial task before the committee will be to decide whether to go ahead with two bids even though they belong to two top business powerhouses of India.
A rebid may not always yield more participants, given the complexities and challenges associated with the development of a new port in India. Moreover, sufficient time has been given to interested parties to carry out due diligence for the project.
The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, the implementing agency the for Tajpur port, had sought expression of interest from prospective bidders in March 2021. It was followed by RFP and RFQ later in October.
The last date for bid submission was extended twice already.
A corporate observer pointed out that it was not unusual to go ahead with low bids, pointing that the Modi government privatised Air India based on two bids. About 10 parties also participated in the pre-bid meeting in November for Tajpur.