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Posco shifts focus from Odisha project citing 'no progress'

Steel giant Posco has shifted its focus from the USD 12-billion proposed steel plant in Odisha citing "no progress" in the project.

New Delhi: Steel giant Posco has shifted its focus from the USD 12-billion proposed steel plant in Odisha citing "no progress" in the project.

"Actually no progress," a Posco India spokesperson told PTI when asked about whether the firm is temporarily suspending its project in Odisha where it plans to set up a 12 million tonne (MT) steel plant.

When pressed further, the spokesperson said: "Not pulling out from India. Shifting its focus from upstream to downstream manufacturing processes with processed materials."

Earlier this week, Posco Chairman and CEO Kwon Oh Joon had said the company is "tentatively suspending the Odisha (India) project due to lack of any progress."

At an investor event in Seoul on Wednesday, he had said that: "Business conditions at home and abroad have changed due to drop in global steel demand, growing deficit of subsidiaries, which have led us to come to a conclusion that we must step up our reform efforts."

The development comes amidst Posco reducing its office space in Odisha as its over USD 12 billion project -- viewed as the largest FDI proposal in India so far -- has been hanging fire for almost a decade.

On reducing the office space, the company spokesperson had said: "Due to no progress in the project area, much of office space was lying vacant in Odisha. It was decided to renovate the office space to a smaller area."

Meanwhile, a Parliamentarian from the BJD, the ruling party in Odisha, Bhartruhari Mahtab has questioned the Centre's intentions on the Posco project and said he would raise the issue in Parliament.

Posco has been facing problems regarding its mega project in Odisha on account of delays in raw material security, land acquisition as well as other clearances.

The company is reducing its unused office space and other expenditure that can be stopped as part of a massive global cost restructuring programme, said a person in the know of developments.

Posco has announced the restructuring programme, which involves reducing "30 percent of the overseas business within the Group".

This will involve "early turnaround of newly run overseas business" as well as "dispose/liquidate/merger non-core business within the group".

The steel maker's proposed USD 12 billion project at Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha for producing 12 million tonne per annum (MTPA) steel is yet to take off even after a decade.

Posco had entered into a pact with Odisha government on June 22, 2005 for the plant, which included iron ore mine development.

Apart from the delays, in a fresh blow to the company this year, the Centre said Posco will have to participate in auction to get iron ore mines to feed its facility instead of direct allotment as assured earlier.

"It is the highest FDI investment. When you are talking of 'Make in India', here is a case that (a company) is thinking of going out of the country. The company (Posco) Chairman has said that only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervenes, then we will consider," BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab told PTI.

He further said: "We want to understand what the Centre's intention is and they should come out with the facts. They cannot hide behind a policy on auctioning of mines. It they want to 'Make in India' through the FDI route then they will have to walk the extra mile. We will take up this issue in Parliament."