Failing to acquire any mine since 2009, ICVL chief faces the axe

The board of the special purpose vehicle is likely to consider a proposal to remove its CEO, Ajay Mathur, for “failing to acquire any overseas coal assets” since inception.

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi | Published:May 15, 2014 1:25 am

International Coal Ventures Limited, which has failed to acquire any overseas mine since its inception, is set to witness a rejig at the top.

The board of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) — formed in May 2009 by maharatna and navratna PSUs with an initial capital base of Rs 10,000 crore to acquire overseas coal properties — is likely to consider a proposal to remove its CEO, Ajay Mathur, for “failing to acquire any overseas coal assets”, top steel ministry official told The Indian Express. The board is slated to meet later this month to take a call on the issue.

“ICVL’s leadership has issued a letter last month saying Ajay Mathur would be removed subject to its board approval,” the official said.

However, when contacted, Mathur said he was unaware of any move to unseat him. “It may be pertinent to clarify that I continue to be the CEO of ICVL and I am not aware if any move for my removal from this position is being contemplated,” he said in an e-mail. Mathur offered no comment on whether ICVL needs to re-invent its relevance as one of the co-founders, NTPC Ltd, has already walked out of it citing divergent interests.

Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and Coal India (CIL) hold 28 per cent share each in the SPV, while Rashtriya Ispat Nigam (RINL) and NMDC Limited hold 22 per cent each. It aims to secure about 500 million tonnes of metallurgical coal reserves across the world by FY20.

The country’s biggest power producer NTPC Ltd has walked out of the SPV, arguing it does not need coking coal but thermal coal. Coal India, too, had last year served an ultimatum to ICVL saying its board has opined in favour of exiting the SPV. After persuasion by the steel ministry, CIL relented and decided to continue. The pressing issue is that while SAIL, RINL and NMDC are more interested in sourcing coking coal, NTPC and CIL are eyeing thermal coal deposits, the official reasoned. The restructuring of the SPV was on the cards for quite sometime and executing it was a matter of time, the official pointed out.

“The key reason for insisting on restructuring ICVL is because it had lost out on all bids in acquiring overseas coal mines. The SPV needs to re-orient its approach in overseas bids,” he said. The members are also cautious that ICVL should not rush to acquire any overvalued mineral asset.

However, a department of public enterprises (DPE) official said removing officials from the ICVL may not be the best way of rejuvenating the SPV. The steel ministry, which exerts administrative control over the SPV would do better by inducing more flexibility in its approach, he argued.

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