Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) is in talks with Arcelor Mittal and Tata Steel for exploring the possibility of striking a joint venture, SAIL Chairman S. K. Roongta said. He also said that the expansion project of Salem Steel in Tamil Nadu would be commissioned within a month.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, he said “initial talks have been held with these companies for a possible steel-making joint venture.” It may be mentioned that India's largest steel-maker is already in talks with Korean major Posco for a possible joint venture.

In reply to a question, he said it could be one or more joint ventures and it was too early to draw out its contours regarding the proposed production or its category (basic steel-making or value-added products). On the issue of who will hold the majority stakes in these ventures, Mr. Roongta said “We will sort it out.”

On the proposed Posco deal, he said that this would be a steel-making joint venture and a working group had been set up to look into the details. “Discussions are progressing for a possible joint venture,” he said. The project location was likely to be Jharkhand or Maharashtra where it might be a cold rolled non-grain oriented steel unit (used mainly by electrical goods manufacturers).

He said that while the Salem Steel expansion project would be readied in a month, the ISP unit at Burnpur would be completed by mid-2011 with SAIL's capacity increasing from 14 million tonnes now to 43.5 million tonnes by 2012-13 when the first phase was set to get completed.

Earlier, addressing a Merchants Chamber of Commerce meeting on ‘Steel industry: the road ahead', he said that the days of price controls were over and it was no longer feasible. Prices could stay in check through self-mechanism of increasing supplies.

Charting out the future course of action, he said that while Indian steel was among the most cost competitive it would have to address issues of environment, energy management and waste management as otherwise it might face the “axe of duties” in the global field.Mr. Roongta also addressed the members of the Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) on Monday.

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