NEW DELHI Jindal Steel and Power is in advanced talks with some resources firms to sell more steel and mining assets, its CEO told Reuters, adding the company hopes to close a $976 million power plant deal well before a mid-2018 deadline.
The New Delhi-based company, one of the most heavily indebted Indian firms, agreed on Tuesday to sell a 1,000 megawatt power plant to billionaire Sajjan Jindal's JSW Energy for up to 65 billion rupees ($976.21 million).
Jindal Steel, majority owned by Sajjan's brother Naveen, is under pressure from lenders like State Bank of India to raise more money to repay loans.
Indian banks are saddled with a corporate bad debt mountain of about $121 billion, hurting their ability to extend fresh loans critical to boosting the economy.
Jindal Steel Chief Executive Ravi Uppal said the power plant deal would close much earlier than the deadline.
"As soon as we are able to secure (power purchase agreements for the plant) then we can close the deal," he said.
With government steps to revive state power companies, it would be a different power market in six months and distribution companies would start to buy, he said. "There is a lot of latent demand, we need to channel it," he said.
Uppal said the company was working to sell more assets in India and abroad to cut its March-end debt of around 460 billion rupees ($6.91 billion), or more than seven times its market capitalisation.
The company has so far managed to meet its debt-related payments of around 7.70 billion rupees ($115.72 million) per quarter, he said.
"Obviously banks would like to see more liquidity raised so this (deal) is in alignment with that," Uppal said. "We are in very advanced stage of talks to sell some more assets. Very difficult to tell but could happen very soon, take a few months – I don't want to look desperate."
Apart from steel and power plants in India, the company has a steel plant in Oman and coal mines in Australia, Mozambique and South Africa.
Uppal also said the company, which on Wednesday reported its seventh straight quarterly loss, will turn profitable in the fourth quarter ending March 31, 2017 as it expects to sell 35-40 percent more steel this fiscal year and prices to improve.
Though Jindal Steel has agreed to sell the power plant to JSW in Chhattisgarh, it will continue to expand the business beyond generation by moving into transmission, distribution and renewable energy when there is any opportunity.
"In the short run we need liquidity, we need more working capital support," he said. "We have to make sure our operations don't suffer for any reason, that’s why we decided to sell the plant while keeping rest of the power as it is."
A court last Friday ordered Naveen Jindal to face trial on charges of criminal conspiracy over an alleged scam involving government allocations of coalfields. Jindal Steel denies wrongdoing by the company or its management.
($1 = 66.5375 rupees)
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das, editing by Louise Heavens and Adrian Croft)
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Updated Date: May 04, 2016 23:15 PM