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Tata Steel plans new forays

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Mr B. Muthuraman, Managing Director, Tata Steel (right), along with Dr T. Mukherjee, Deputy Managing Director, at a news conference in Kolkata on Friday.

KOLKATA, April 5

TATA Steel is planning to enter some new business areas which might include non-steel segments, Mr B. Muthuraman, Managing Director, said here today.

Addressing a news conference here on Friday, Mr Muthuraman said the evaluation process was on and he would not like to comment further. He said that the foray would be part of the strategy to increase shareholder value.

On whether the foray would be outside the areas of its core competence, he said for a company almost 100 years old, this was a slightly ambiguous term. Running a township has also become an area of core competence for Tata Steel, he remarked.

Unveiling the company's plan for the 2003 financial year, he said more branded products, higher volumes, containing costs and improving shareholder value would be the highlights of the plan. A target of 4.4 m.t of hot metal production, 4 m.t of crude steel production and 3.8 m.t of saleable steel had been set for 2002-03.

On the ferrochrome project proposed to be set up in South Africa, Mr Muthuraman said the company was awaiting clearances from the South African Government. An investment of Rs 250 crore would be required for this 120-tonne project.

He said that nothing had been finalised on TISCO's modernisation and expansion plans, although the company was modernising some of its old blast furnaces indigenously. In this context, Dr T. Mukherjee, Deputy MD, said Rs 200 crore would be spent on modernising a blast furnace, which was put up in the fifties. This project would be completed in 100 days. Elaborating on the plans to launch branded products, Mr Muthuraman said the company, which now had three brands, proposed to increase its portfolio. "More products were proposed to be introduced with Tata Steel tapping this area with the vigour of a FMCG company," he announced.

Citing an instance on the benefits of branding, he mentioned that TISCON -— a "sleepy brand" — was relaunched last year, after which the inventories of the item dropped sharply even in a dull market.

On investments in Gopalpur in Orissa, Mr Muthuraman said around Rs 130 crore was spent on land acquisition for a greenfield steel project. However the project had now been shelved.

He said the company was now assisting the Orissa Government to market the special economic zone (SEZ), which would be set up in Gopalpur. " We will not be involved in the SEZ but we helped the Government to prepare the report and we are now helping to market the project," he said.

On Tata Steel's proposal for the Salem Steel Plant, he said that the company was still interested in the project and was awaiting a response from the Tamil Nadu Government.

On manpower reduction, he said that the workforce was reduced by 2,500 touching a figure of 46,350 now. He declined to reveal this fiscal's target.

Employees `co-create' vision: Tata Steel's employees are helping create a new vision for the nearly 100-year old company, according to Mr Muthuraman.

The final touches are now being put to the document which has received rich inputs from employees through the company's Intranet.

Tight-lipped as he was about the ongoing exercise, all that he would say is that the exercise would look `inwards'. Company sources said that the four-month long endeavour, now coming to an end, would be unveiled soon.

The vision is that of becoming a world class organisation which will bring glory to the nation and have a sense of adventure. "It should be a fun place to work," as per this new vision, a spokesman said. Apart from its vision, Tata Steel also has well-chalked-out policies on social issues such as HIV and AIDS control, alcohol and drugs besides routine issues such as environment, safety and quality.

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