JSPL to focus on Housing and Railways; aims to become debt-free by 2023

Representative image of steel plant
Debt-ridden Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) is aiming to become debt-free by 2023 and is banking on housing, real estate sector and mobility infrastructure such as Railways, Metro and freight corridors for growth.

Speaking with Business Standard, V R Sharma, managing director, JSPL, said the company is looking at a 50 per cent demand growth coming from the housing segment. “With the revival the real estate sector and reduction of rate of interest for housing sector, till June 2021, there will be a demand uptick. The industry is expecting demand of 12 million tonnes of Rebars to come up in coming quarters,” said Sharma. Rebars are used in construction sector.

JSPL, which signed up for an order for supply of 100,000 tonne of rails from the Indian Railways, is eyeing a demand growth of 25 per cent from the national transporter. “The Indian Railways is implementing replacement of current tracks with high speed tracks. We are now designing special products for the Railways and also the Metro Rail tracks,” Sharma said.

The two new products in JSPL’s catalogue are 1080 Grade head hardened or heat-treated rails and 1175 Grade head hardened rails. The company said these are speciality products for high speed tracks.

“We are supplying to all zones of Railways and also to East Dedicated Freight Corridor. We will sign another agreement with the Railways soon for bulk supply of rails,” Sharma said, adding the quantity and price is being decided by the Railways.

IR had in 2018-19 procured 100,000 tonne of rails from Jindal Steel & Power (JSPL), the first from the private sector in at least three decades. Early this year, JSPL won another order, for Rs 665 crore from Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL, a company under the railways ministry) to supply 89,042 tonnes of rails.

Traditionally, state-owned Steel Authority of India (SAIL) had a monopoly on supply to IR. The Railway Board signs an annual deal with SAIL, on quantity and pricing.

Sharma is hopeful of new business coming their way with the Centre announcing $102 trillion of National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). “We will benefit from the all sectors which the NIP focuses on – roads, housing, defence, energy,” he said.

JSPL, however, will not invest in any new project. “We will not spend any further capital expenditure in any greenfield project. The company is sticking to its annual target of surpassing 6.5 million tonne of steel production and sale,” said Sharma.

Saddled with debt of Rs 36,000 crore, JSPL plans to reduce Rs 7,000 crore of debt every year. By 2023, JSPL aims to be debt free or left with a nominal debt. “JSPL also expects to touch turnover of Rs 50,000 crore by 2023,” Sharma told the paper.

In August last year, JSPL sold off its Botswana coal mine, one of its major international ventures. The asset has been sold to Maatla Energy for $150 million. The sale was part of the company’s plan to monetise its global assets to pare debt at the group level.

The company has investment and business ventures in other Southern African markets as well, such as Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Madagascar. However, with rising debt and global slowdown in the coal and steel market over the past few years, JSPL is selling off its international ventures to reduce its debt burden. Sharma however confirmed the company is not looking to hive off Oman steel plant, as it remains a “cash cow” for JSPL. JSPL owns and operates a 2 million tonne per annum Steel Melting Shop in Oman which is the country’s first and largest such plant.

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