Companies & Sectors
Power “less” dilemma: Coal industry at the cross-roads

The Indian coal industry is plagued by a number of operational problems. Will the efforts of Australian mining queen Georgina Rinehart help the Indian coal industry?

After China and USA, India is the third largest producer of coal, producing some 440 million tonnes (MT) against an annual demand of 650 MT. 55% of the Indian power generating plants depend upon coal as their fuel requirement. The need for power is growing by the minute.
Coal is imported under the Open General Licence (OGL) which has progressively increased from 90 MT in 2010 to a projected need of 143 MT during 2012. The benchmark price for Australian thermal coal this year has fallen below $85 a tonne but currently there is glut of supplies due to ports being full and they do not have additional storage facilities. India's import of thermal coal amounted to some 70 MT in the price range of $70 to $80.
Indigenous production, though cheaper than imported coal, is not sufficient to meet the demand. Therefore, in order to ensure continuity of definite supplies, many power producers have long-term overseas purchase arrangements, mining interests overseas or leases to supplement the shortages.
The Indian coal industry, as such, is plagued by a number of operational problems relating to law and order, manpower deployment, wage disparities, health services and other related issues. Labour supply has been in the hands of mine developers and contractors. Besides these, there are no dedicated rail roads, shortage of rakes, and of course the uncontrollable pilferage in transit. Even power plants at pitheads have coal supply problems. There is the urgent need to get balancing equipments and modern mining machinery, besides trained manpower to handle these.
It may be recalled that Coal India (CIL) was subject to severe criticism on the issue of Fuel Supply Agreements (FSAs); after the intervention of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), a revised FSA covers a guaranteed supply of 65% of the requirement for the first three years, 72% for the fourth year and 80% in the fifth year. This means that the buyer will still have to make suitable alternative arrangement to bridge the gap of the actual requirement.
During the current year, CIL proposes to import 30 MT though they envisage a shortfall of 45 MT. And in order to coordinate and bring about a major change in the industry working, the coal ministry is in the process of setting up a nodal agency for this purpose. In the interim period, STC/MMTC may take over this responsibility. However, it is better to take the needed extra time rather than choosing one of these two organisations and then again making the changes.
Other issues in the FSA, like the biased penalty clause, moratorium on payment, etc are yet to be revised and finalized.
Although the appointment of the regulator for the industry has been on the anvil for sometime now, it is distressing to note that no final choice has so far been made.  However, there is a tall order awaiting the regulator which covers both granting and suspending of mining
licenses; determining the price structure for all types of coal and its products; imposing and recovering penalties and setting up standards of performance and operational norms, besides advising the government on the industry.
Australia, Indonesia and Mozambique have been important sources of coal, where many Indian companies have entered into long-term lease arrangements, joint ventures and other types of investments. The major thrust, in this regard, has actually come from well-known
Australian mining giant, Thiess, which has entered into long-term relations with NTPC in the joint venture that has resulted in the setting up of Pakri Barwadih coal mine operations in Jharkhand, valued at $ 6.5 billion. This is scheduled to last till 2034 as on date. Thiess will be mining, though a local sub-contractor, and production is expected to start in October 2012.
This is the first of the six mines NTPC intends to develop to provide low-cost coal and when it is fully operative, it is envisaged that the production will be 15 MT (by the third year), and efforts made to reach a target of 18 MT.
According to Peter Varghese, the Australian High Commissioner, "they are just beginning to see activity on the ground" though he has stated that "Indian environment regulatory and other issues are seen as very tough to negotiate. Australia is currently negotiating an economic co-operation agreement to cover goods, services and investments. Our authorities would do well to ensure that small hiccups do not impede the growth of interest in this area which may raise the red flag to other likely investors".
In the meantime, it is gratifying to note the presence of Australian mining queen Georgina Hope Rinehart, chairperson of Hancock Prospecting in the country, which has collaboration with the GVK Group, associated with the Alpha coal mine in Australia.
In the long run, it is hoped Ms Rinehart would consider serious interests in developing mines in India too.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)


Buy at dips: Monday Closing Report

Four-day upmove on the Nifty paused for breath today

The market settled marginally down amid volatile trade snapping its four-day winning streak on profit booking. We had mentioned in our Friday's closing report that the Nifty may rise to the level of 5,500 subject to dips. We continue to maintain that stance. The index today managed to make a higher high and higher low, however, it settled unchanged at Friday's levels. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a volume of 69.46 crore shares.

The market consolidated its Friday's gains and opened flat this morning as investors booked profits after four days' of continuous gains. The Nifty opened five points higher at 5,284 and the Sensex started off at 17,439, up nine points over its previous close.

However, in the absence of any fresh triggers the indices were range-bound and hovered near their previous closing levels in subsequent trade.

Meanwhile, the HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI)-a measure of factory production-improved slightly to 55 in June, from 54.8 in May. HSBC, however, cautioned that going ahead, a slight moderation in output is likely as new order growth decelerated slightly led by export orders amid the sagging global economic situation.

On the other hand, India's exports declined by 4.16% year-on-year in May this year to $25.68.billion, mainly due to demand slowdown in the western markets. Imports too dipped by (-)7.36% in May to $41.94 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $16.26 billion.

The market fell to its intraday low in the noon session on selling pressure in heavyweights like ICICI Bank, Reliance Industries, TCS, ONGC and Tata Motors. The lacklustre opening of the key European indices also weighed down on the investors. At the lows, the Nifty fell to 5,263 and the Sensex went back to 17,363.

Bargain hunting at the lows saw the market emerge into the positive in the post-noon session enabling the benchmarks hit their intraday highs. The Nifty rose to 5,302 and the Sensex climbed up to 17,487.

The market once again dipped into the red in the last half hour amid volatile trade and closed flat with a negative bias. The Nifty closed unchanged at 5,279 and the Sensex lost 31 points to settle at 17,399.

The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was tilted in favour of the gainers at 966:477.

Among the broader indices, the BSE Mid-cap index climbed 0.90% and the BSE Small-cap index advanced 1.09%.

The top gainers in the sectoral space were BSE Realty (up 2.32%); BSE Consumer Durables (up 1.24%); BSE PSU (up0.74%); BSE Bankex (up 0.66%) and BSE Power (up 0.65%). The losers were BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 2.08%); BSE Auto (down 0.56%) and BSE IT (down 0.27%).

HDFC Bank (up 1.84%); Bharti Airtel (up 1.59%); Sterlite Industries (up 1.56%); BHEL (up 1.31%) and Tata Steel (up 1.29%) were the top gainers on the Sensex today. The key losers were ITC (down 3.42%); Jindal Steel (down 2.49%); Hindustan Unilever (down 1.61%); Tata Motors (down 1.53%) and TCS (down 1.36%).

Top two A Group gainers on the BSE were-Pantaloon Retail (up 6.13%) and Unitech (up 6.12%).
Top two A Group losers on the BSE were-ITC (down 3.42%) and Jindal Steel (down 2.49%).

Top two B Group gainers on the BSE were-Accel Frontline and Lok Housing (up 20% each).
Top two B Group losers on the BSE were-Manjeera Constructions (down 12.97%) and Globus Corporation (down 10.26%).

The top performers on the Nifty were ACC (up 3.98%); DLF (up 3.02%); Grasim Industries (up 2.16%); HDFC Bank (up 2.03%) and Bharti Airtel (up 1.93%). The main laggards on the index were ITC (down 4.21%); Jindal Steel (down 3.41%); Hero MotoCorp (down 1.93%), Tata Motors (down 1.92%) and HUL (down 1.74%).

Markets in Asia closed mostly higher on positive economic data from China and Japan.  In China, the government's Purchasing Managers' Index, a measure of the country's factory output was 50.2 in June, little changed from 50.4 in May. A closely watched Bank of Japan survey showed the headline index for big manufacturers' sentiment was minus 1 in June, up from minus 4 in March. Big manufacturers expect conditions to improve over the next three months, with the index for September seen at plus 1, compared with analysts' estimates of minus 3.

The Shanghai Composite added 0.03%; the Jakarta Composite surged 0.91%; the KLSE Composite rose 0.11%; the Straits Times climbed 1.12% and the Taiwan Weighted advanced 0.67%. On the other hand, the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.04% and the KOSPI Composite lost 0.13%. The Hong Kong market was closed for trade today.

At the time of writing, the key European indices were up between 0.63% and 1.23% and the US stocks futures were trading with marginal gains.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of stocks totalling Rs3,046.76 crore on Friday while domestic institutional investors were net sellers of shares amounting to Rs250.71 crore.

Urban infrastructure development major Pratibha Industries today said it has bagged orders worth Rs 1,491.59 crore in tunnelling and building segments. Following these orders, the current order book of the company stood at Rs7,170 crore. The stock jumped 7.98% to close at Rs50.05 on the NSE.

State-run telecom company MTNL has stopped its promotional offer for plans under which customers were charged on a per minute basis. This will lead to MTNL customers paying up to 50% more compared to the previous rates on calls. The stock rose 1.69% to close at Rs24 on the NSE.

Tanla Solutions has developed a socially connected Games Club for BlackBerry smartphone users in the Asia-Pacific region. Besides the free games available on smartphones, the club offers a wide range of games on subscription model. The stock gained 1.72% to close at Rs5.90 on the NSE.


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