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JSW Infra, Essar Ports, Royal Vopak among firms vying for Sterling Port

Domestic and foreign port operators have shown interest in buying the upcoming Sterling Port in Dahej, according to two people aware of the matter.

JSW Infrastructure, a unit of Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Group, Essar Ports Ltd, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, Chennai-based IMC Ltd, and Netherlands-based company Royal Vopak NV have submitted Expressions of Interest (EoI) to acquire the port controlled by the Vadodara-based Sandesara Group, one of the two persons said on the condition of anonymity.

Lenders to Sterling Port Ltd plan to bring a strategic investor to replace the existing concessionaire at the Dahej port project in Gujarat, Mint reported on 30 October.

The lenders include Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd, Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank.

Sterling owes them Rs300 crore and has an additional Rs80 crore in dues to the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), the regulator for all non-major ports in Gujarat. Interested parties have been asked to submit EoIs by 25 November.

Sterling Port promoters hold close to 74% equity in the port project, while the remaining stake is held by Sterling Biotech Ltd, the group’s publicly listed flagship company. The firm has been awarded a 30-year concession to develop an all-weather, direct-berthing port for handling dry bulk, liquid bulk and container cargoes.

Srei Infrastructure Finance had plans to acquire the Rs4,060-crore greenfield port. However, it’s not clear whether Srei has submitted an EoI, said the second person.

Mails sent to spokespersons at Sterling Port, Andhra Bank, Royal Vopak, IMC Ltd and Shapoorji Pallonji were not answered while spokespersons at Srei and Essar Ports declined to comment.

Mint had reported in March that Srei Infrastructure planned to acquire Sandesara Group’s stake in the port. This was in the backdrop of around Rs6,000 crore in loans advanced to several companies of Vadodara-based Sandesara group turning bad, Mint reported. GMB had signed a concession agreement with Sterling Port for the development of Dahej port in June 2015.

In phase-I, two solid cargo terminals, a liquid cargo terminal and a container terminal would be commissioned at a cost of around Rs2,500 crore. In phase-II, one terminal each for solid, liquid and container would be added.

Private port operators are expanding their footprint across the country. India’s merchandise exports rose 25.7% to $28.6 billion in September. It grew at the fastest pace in six months in September, belying concerns that implementation of the goods and services tax may blunt export competitiveness.

Ports and terminals under JSW Infrastructure in Maharashtra and Goa currently have an operational capacity of 33 MPTA. Within the next four years, this is going to increase more than six-fold to reach 200 MTPA through Greenfield and Brownfield expansions, according to the company website.

Ruias-owned Essar Ports Ltd is already exploring the option of setting up a greenfield commercial port in Gujarat, and the company has recently given a project proposal to GMB for the same, Mint reported in January.

Essar Ports current has a cargo handling capacity of 140 MMTPA which it plans to expand to 194 MMTPA over the next few years. Essar Ports has five operational port terminals at Hazira, Vadinar, Paradip, Salaya and Vizag.

Royal Vopak is the world’s leading independent tank storage company and operates a global network of terminals. Listed on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange, Vopak operates 67 terminals in 25 countries with a combined storage capacity of 35.7 million cbm, with another 2.8 million cbm cubic meters (cbm) under development, to be added before the end of 2019, according to a company website.

In 2011, Royal Vopak had entered Indian market by acquiring CRL Terminals Pvt. Ltd for Rs278 crore ($61.8 million) in the Port of Kandla from a domestic operator and the company was renamed as Vopak Terminal Kandla.

Incorporated in 1935, the Chennai-based IMC Group is in the business of liquid bulk and dry cargo port-based terminals, operations and maintenance services and international trading.
Source: Live Mint

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