The Central government has moved towards building technical collaboration with South Korean steel maker POSCO, fuelling speculation that the company’s projects in India may be revived. State-owned Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with POSCO for technical collaboration for operational improvement and human resource development. This has fuelled speculation that the two companies may revive their joint venture Greenfield project at Bokaro (Jharkhand), the MoU for which was signed in 2010, during the time of the UPA II government. The project remained a non-starter due to various issues, mainly shareholding. That SAIL chairman P.K. Singh himself went to Seoul to attend the MoU signing ceremony, gives credence to the speculation, although a senior SAIL official maintained that “as of now this is only limited to technical collaboration”.
Posco had earlier provided blast furnaces with high productivity and availability with low operating cost to IISCO, SAIL’s plant in Burnpur (West Bengal).
It is to be noted that Posco had pulled out of its Karnataka project, where it had plans to set up a 6 million tonne per annum (MTPA) steel plant, though its 12 MTPA Odisha project is still “on” despite several hiccups. During the UPA government, SAIL and Posco had differences over shareholding pattern. Sources said Posco had been insisting that it should have the majority shareholding since the Korean government had funded and patented the non-coking coal, environment friendly technology, Finex. It had said that it would not clear a joint venture in which it had less than 51% stake. SAIL, however, was opposed to the idea.
Under the NDA government, there have been efforts to enhance collaboration with global steel players to improve productivity in the steel sector. Earlier this year, a South Korean delegation led by the Mayor of Pohang met the then Steel Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to discuss various areas where the two countries could collaborate and work together in the steel sector. In a similar case, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, whose Greenfield projects were going slow in India, joined hands with SAIL to set up an automotive steel facility.
The MOU was signed by In-Hwa Chang, Chief Technical Officer, POSCO and Raman, Director (Technical), SAIL at POSCO Centre, Seoul. The signing ceremony was held in the presence of Oh-JoonKwon, chairman cum CEO, POSCO and P.K. Singh, chairman SAIL.
Singh said that the signing of the MoU was an important milestone in SAIL-POSCO’s long standing relationship. It would be SAIL’s endeavour to work together with POSCO for the mutual benefit of both the companies, he added. Kwon expressed happiness at the collaboration with SAIL and hoped that both companies would work together to make it a success.