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CIL, NTPC can quit ICVL: Steel Min

The Steel Secretary had last month said that ministry is examining all the options to restructure ICVL and remove

Taking forward its plans to revamp International Coal Ventures (ICVL), the Steel Ministry has said that Coal India (CIL) and NTPC, two of ICVL’s leading members, can exit the special purpose vehicle if they do not wish to scout and buy coal properties abroad.

“The thing is whether CIL or NTPC want to participate in this (ICVL). If they do not want to participate they can resign from it. It is a big venture. If anybody wants to withdraw they can withdraw,” Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh told a news agency in an interview.

The ministry is considering restructuring ICVL — a special purpose vehicle formed by five big PSUs like SAIL, NTPC, CIL, NMDC and RINL, to acquire coal assets abroad; or even replacing it with a new company as it has failed to make much headway in buying assets during the past two years.

One of the primary reasons for such a deadlock, is the presence of PSUs from three different ministries. ICVL comes under the Ministry of Steel. Steel maker SAIL, RINL and mining giant NMDC are also under the Steel Ministry, while NTPC is under Power Ministry PSU and CIL under the Coal Ministry.

Asked if the Steel Ministry would like to talk with the other ministries concerned or the PSUs before asking them formally to leave, Singh said, “They would have participated in it after due deliberation. If they resign. I can't question them.”

Meanwhile, the Steel Ministry is also learnt to be planning a special arm under SAIL to spearhead overseas acquisitions, mainly in the mining sector, both coal and iron ore. ICVL’s operations were limited to buying coal assets. Sources said the ministry could wind the operations of ICVL and float a 100 per cent subsidiary of SAIL to scout and acquire mining resources abroad or it could restructure ICVL and ask all its members except SAIL to quit it and make the entity SAIL’s arm.

Steel Secretary Atul Chaturvedi had last month said that ministry is examining all the options to restructure ICVL and remove its “structural and decision-making deficiencies” so that it can pursue its objective of buying raw materials abroad.

ICVL was formed to acquire thermal and coking coal properties abroad in 2008 with a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore, with SAIL being the major contributor. Rashtriay Ispat Nigam (RINL), a member of ICVL, is due to get navratna status soon which will give it autonomy in deciding on investment decisions of up to Rs 5,000 crore.

“The decision is expected soon now. So if RINL leaves ICVL and has the navratna status, it could independently go searching for mining resources abroad and form joint ventures to meet its raw material requirements and decide on huge investment plans without the approval of steel ministry,” an official said.

NMDC is a navratna firm and has the financial freedom to go on such a hunt. RINL lacks captive raw material reserves while SAIL and NMDC have huge reserves of iron ore required in steel making. The steel makers keenly eye rich raw material reserves abroad.

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