Reported by Chinmaya Dehury/Edited by Sandeep Sahu
Bhubaneswar, Aug 28:
The Odisha government has refused to entertain the proposal of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), led by Congress MP Naveen Jindal, to acquire 49% stake in the Gopalpur port, which became operational two months ago.
“Your proposal has no locus standi as per the concession agreement of Gopalpur Port. Hence your proposal can not be considered,” said an official letter of the Commerce and Ttransport department to the head
of operations, JSPL.
The department, however, clarified that correspondence in this regard by the concessionaire of Gopalpur Port Ltd (GPL) can be entertained, raising hope for JSPL that it can acquire 49% stake in the port if can persuade GPL to propose to the government the sale of its stake.
Earlier, JSPL had proposed to the government to acquire 60% stake in the port, which was rejected because the sale did not comply with terms of the contract. Later, it had to rework its plan and settle for 49% stake.
During the recent visit of Naveen Jindal, he had said that his company was ready to acquire 49% stake from the port if the government agreed to the proposal.
Gopalpur Port in Ganjam district is an equal joint venture between Sara International Ltd and Orissa Stevedores Ltd. The firm was awarded the port project by the Odisha government in September 2006 for
development and operations for an initial period of 30 years, extendable by another 20.
The original promoters of Gopalpur Ports had applied to the government to induct Jindal Steel and Power as a 60% shareholder in the port company. But, according to the concession agreement signed between Gopalpur Ports and the state government, the original promoters of the port have to hold a 51% stake till three years after starting commercial operations, which is not in line with the concession agreement.
According to the proposal, Jindal Steel and Power, a part of the $15 billion diversified OP Jindal Group, had agreed to buy the entire stake held by Sara International and a 10% stake from Orissa Stevedores in Gopalpur Ports for an undisclosed sum in 2012.
The original promoters of Gopalpur Ports had requested the Odisha government to make an exemption from the lock-in period for their holding specified in the concession agreement to facilitate the stake sale.
After the government denied permission to acquire 60% stake by JSPL, the Sara International had amended the share purchase agreement with JSPL to reflect the sale of 39% stake to them. Orissa Stevedores sold another 10% stake, making JSPL the single largest share-holder in Gopalpur Ports with a 49% stake.
The new port is being developed with an investment of Rs.2,000 crore in three phases with a capacity to handle 40 million tonnes (MT) of cargo a year.