INTERVIEW-India's NTPC to form JVs for foreign plants in 3 mths

Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:38pm IST

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* NTPC has no plans to buy overseas coal mines

* NTPC has locked-in 2 yr fuel supply for power plants

* May set up coastal power plants in 5 yrs

By Ratnajyoti Dutta and Krittivas Mukherjee

NEW DELHI, March 10 (Reuters) - India's top power utility NTPC Ltd.(NTPC.BO) plans joint ventures in three months to build $3.5-billion power plants in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, its head said on Thursday, marking the firm's first overseas venture.

NTPC, whose 85 percent of current 33.2 gigawatts capacity is coal-based, has no plans to acquire overseas coal mines for at least two years as supplies for existing plants have been locked-in, Arup Roy Choudhury told Reuters in an interview.

In August, NTPC agreed with Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) to set up two coal-fired power plants of 1320 megawatts (MWs) capacity each in an equal partnership venture. NTPC has also agreed to set up a 500 MW plant in Sri Lanka at a cost of about $500 million.

"We plan to sign agreements on these two projects in 2-3 months with local joint venture partners," he said.

NTPC, which generates about 30 percent of the country's power, plans to add 25,000 MWs of electricity by 2017, he said.

"Every third bulb in the country is lit by NTPC," said Roy Choudhury, who had a long stint in the construction industry before he took over the charge of the firm in September 2010.

While India has the world's fourth-largest coal reserves, its coal imports have grown rapidly as Asia's third-largest power producer seeks to step up capacities to end blackouts.

Indian power firms, including Reliance Power (RPOL.BO), Tata Power Co (TTPW.BO) and Adani Enterprises (ADEL.BO) have acquired coal assets overses besides importing coal from Russia to power world's second fastest growing major economy.

NOT IN A HURRY

But NTPC has no such plans at least for next two years.

"We already have order for next two years in hand. I don't expect any overseas coal mine acquisition in at least two years. That might happen after two years, but definitely not now," he said.

"We are not in a hurry to acquire overseas coal mines at least in two years".

India's coal imports in the current fiscal is estimated at 137 million tonnes, junior coal minister Pratik Prakashbapu Patil told lawmakers on Wednesday.

India, which gets about 60 percent of its power from coal, aims to halve its peak-hour power deficit of nearly 14 percent over the next two years and triple generation capacity over the next decade.

To power its economic growth, India aims to set up a 500 billion rupee ($10.74 billion) debt fund to facilitate development of new power projects.[ID:nSGE68809S]

To widen its local portfolio, NTPC plans to build coastal power plants based on imported fuel as hurdles like inadequate rail infrastructure pose problems in coal delivery to power plants.

"We are looking at developing coastal power plants and that may happen in next five years," Roy Choudhury said, adding his firm could source coal from Indonesia and a small portion from Australia for these plants.

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