PSA wants free pricing regime;worried over RoI from India ops

Mumbai, Feb 18 (PTI) Pitching for more parity in policy formulation vis-a-vis private ports, global terminal operator Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) today said New Delhi should liberalise the pricing power for infrastructure operators.

Stating that it has committed over USD 2 billion here in the past two decades, the company said it has not been a financially rewarding experience being in India and has underlined the importance of profitability, calling it essential for reinvestment.

"Gradually, it will not be a disadvantage for India to move towards an open tariff regime, like many other locations," PSA Group chief executive Tan Chong Meng told reporters here.

"Things can be improved and could we say, normalised, and put on a level-playing field especially with private ports and private operators," he added.

"Profitability and health of companies are important for reinvestment," he said, and pointed out that many Indian assets are over three decades old which need continuous investment to better serve the requirements of trade.

The company, which entered the country more than decades ago in 1997 with an investment in the Tuticorin Port in Tamil Nadu, has committed over USD 2 billion till now.

The first phase of its latest bet -JNPTs 4th terminal built at an investment of Rs 4,719 crore-is being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi later today in Nav Sheva, the site of the JNPT facilities.

Meng, however, expressed displeasure at the returns from India, which it considers as an important market with a healthy potential, till now.

"The initial stages of this partnership with India has not been financially that rewarding," he said.

It can be noted that rate-setting by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (Tamp), which guides prices charged at state-run ports which have appointed entities like PSA to build and operate ports on a revenue share basis, is a major concern for the industry.

Some also blame it for impeding the progress of this key infrastructure sector. The same period has also seen a major increase in the volumes handled by non-major or private ports like Mundra in Gujarat.

Meng said the PSA is not keen to add more terminals in India but will be concentrating on the fourth terminal with a 4.8-million standard container units capacity, half of whose capacity is being thrown open for trade today.

Just like its peers, the PSA is keen to add capacity on the inland container depots in the hinterland, which can serve as a point of presence or as an extension for the JNPT, Meng said.

Even though its been an organic journey for the company here, it will be open for acquisitions when it comes to ICD play, he added.

The company operates assets in Kolkata, Chennai and Kakinada in Andhra as well and has handled over 2 million TEUs last year.

Meng said it has a 13 per cent market share which will grow to 20 per cent over the next few years with the addition of the fourth terminal at the JNPT. PTI AA BEN BEN