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Foreign PE funds turn on power
August, 23rd 2006
They may turn out to be the new batch of power-puff funds. Long after foreign power giants walked out of India, the power sectors returning to action. And this time, the actions led by foreign private equity (PE) funds. Warburg Pincus, Actis, Citigroup, Temasek and the government of Singapore and Clearwater are in talks with leading power companies like Tata Power, Reliance Energy and GVK Power & Infrastructure (GVKPIL). PE funds are beginning to show an appetite for infrastructure sectors like power, aviation and roads, and we are talking big money here. The governments re cent moves to whip up investments in the power sector through mega investments in ultra mega power projects have caught the attention of power majors and PE funds. Ultra mega power projects are plants with large capacities like 4,000 MW, which are being developed under direct supervision of the Centre. We had some preliminary discussions with major funds. The foreign PE players wanted to understand what are the new opportunities available for investments in the power sector, said S Ramakrishnan, executive director, Tata Power. Some of the funds are particularly interested in sustainable energy projects like the ones being built on coal rejects. The Tatas, for instance, operate about 2,000 MW of capacity on such fuel, which is primarily a residual product of coal after it is used in the steel plant. We have almost 2,000 MW of captive capacity that is based on this fuel and the PE funds are showing great interest in such projects, a senior Tata Power official said. Senior GVK group officials said they had made presentations to PE investors in Mumbai. Many of them are keen to invest in power projects that are built under competitive bidding process, said an official. GVKPIL is in the process of integrating itself with half-a-dozen unlisted group companies in the power and infrastructure sector, currently wholly-owned by the family. An official said the family wants to keep its stake at 51% in GVKPIL and offload up to 15% equity to a PE investor, post-restructuring. Most foreign PE investors are seriously looking at the proposed 4,000-MW ultra mega power projects, expected to go under the bidding process by the end of 06. On winning the bid, Indian players will definitely need financial assistance, and would be open to take on board these PE players, said an industry official. A senior PE investor said there are tremendous opportunities opening up in the power sector. Before entering the generation/distribution sectors, many PE investors have already invested in power ancillary sector, he said.
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