Tata Steel's India business has achieved highest-ever annual sales of 12.13 million tonne (MT) in the financial year ending March 2018--- a growth of 11 per cent compared to the previous year. It recorded the best-ever annual sales in the automotive sector, registering a growth of 21 per cent as against an industry growth of 14 per cent in this period. Tata Steel's global CEO and Managing Director, T. V. Narendran tells Business Today's Nevin John in an email interview that the company will complete the Kalinganagar Phase II expansion of 5 million tonne (MT) within 48 months from the board approval date with an investment of Rs 23,500 crore.
Q: Steel prices are improving and demand too picking up and Tata Steel Group is sorting out its issues in Europe and is going for a JV with Thyssenkrupp. How these major factors will influence the performance of the company?
A: Globally, the steel industry is in a better situation than it was a couple of years back. China has taken supply side action which has reduced its exports, and the demand in both developing and developed countries is picking up which is reflected in better prices and more price stability. Tata Steel is well positioned to leverage the opportunities this creates. In Europe, through the JV, we are trying to create a stronger and more sustainable company, and in India, we are capitalising on opportunities for organic and inorganic growth.
Q: In India, the large steelmakers are creating new capacities or buying assets, expecting a supply deficit by 2021. What is your long-term view on the Indian market, capacity creation and the margins?
A: The consumption of steel in India is expected to at least mirror the GDP growth rate, if not do better than that in the medium to long term. This is because of the infrastructure deficit we have and the Government's plans to address this infrastructure deficit. Also, the increasing investments in the Indian market, the 'Make in India' initiative, the urbanisation trends and a growing middle class are also positives for steel demand. I believe that in India demand will outpace supply over the next few years and that should help the industry improve its margins which will in turn attract new investments in the industry.
Q: Now, the global giants like ArcelorMittal are vying for sick assets for an entry into the Indian market. Will it be a challenge to Tata Steel, at least on client acquisition and pricing fronts?
A: I think the Indian market has room for many strong players. It will be good for our Industry as it will help us push each other to perform better, and it is good for the customers, and it is certainly good for the economy as it will lead to more investments and jobs.
Q: What are your greenfield expansion plans and how much investment will be done to complete it?
A: The Board has recently approved the Kalinganagar Phase II expansion which will take the plant to a capacity of 8 MT from the current level of 3 MT. This will entail an expenditure of Rs 23,500 crore and we have promised to complete it in 48 months from the Board approval date.
Q: Tata Steel India is better positioned in the case of raw material security -- iron ore 100 per cent and coal 30 per cent. Will there be any change when you add capacity in Kalinganagar? If so, how will you manage it?
A: On iron ore, we will continue to invest to grow our production and feed our plants. For coal, we have limitations and will strive to stay at 30 per cent of our needs through our investments in our West Bokaro coal mines. We will also continue to participate in auctions wherever we find the blocks attractive to sustain our requirements over the long term.
Q: What are going to be the short-term and medium-term challenges for the Indian steel business?
A: In the short term, the profitability of the industry has to improve so that we can attract more investments in the industry to cater to the long-term needs of the country. We also need good quality capital equipment manufacturing facilities in India to reduce the dependence on imports. We need to attract and retain the right talent. We also need to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the Industry. The industry players have to improve the internal efficiencies and the government needs to help us reduce our costs outside the factory gates.
Q: Who will get the management control in the European JV that you are planning with Germany's Thyssenkrupp? Will it be like Tata Steel just holding a stake in Europe business and not involving in day-to-day business?
A: As announced earlier, it will be a 50:50 JV and the management structures and operating structures are currently under discussion. Both Thyssen and us are committed to create a strong European entity with a 'one company' structure.
Q: What is your long-term view of the European business? What is your expectation on turnaround of business in Europe?
A: The European business struggled because the market for steel in Europe collapsed post 2008 and it has been the last of the major markets to recover. Even today, steel consumption is not much different from what it was 10 years back. However, we have taken a number of tough calls over the years and our colleagues in Europe have also worked hard to drive greater efficiencies and develop a richer product mix and a stronger market position. Since last year, we are also seeing a certain robustness for steel demand that we have not seen for a long time. The JV will help us create a strong number 2 player in Europe and we have identified 400 to 600 million Euros per year of synergies for the combined entity. We are confident that we are moving in the right direction and are creating a strong and sustainable European business that is well positioned to capitalise on a recovering European market.