The Centre has received proposals from buyers evincing interest in picking up stakes in Salem Steel Plant (SSP), a unit of public sector steel major SAIL.

“The transaction is still active and, at present, is at the Stage-II level. An invitation for Expressions of Interest (Eol) was floated in 2019 and multiple Eols have been received,” Faggan Singh Kulaste, Minister of State for Steel, said in a reply in the Rajya Sabha.

He also said: “the legitimate concerns of the existing employees and other stakeholders are being suitably addressed during the disinvestment process.”

Also read: Salem Steel Plant divestment: SAIL agrees to give up 1,600 acres to TN

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), in a meeting held on October 27, 2016, had accorded in-principle approval for the Strategic Disinvestment of three units of SAIL -- Visvesvaraya Iron & Steel Plant (VISP), Bhadravati, Karnataka; Salem Steel Plant (SSP), Tamil Nadu; and Alloy Steel Plant (ASP), West Bengal. 

It was decided to identify strategic buyers through a two-stage auction process. Subsequently, the SAIL board in its meeting held on February 9, 2017, approved the strategic disinvestment of the three units.

On July 4, 2019, SAIL issued a global invitation for Expressions of Interest (EOI) from interested bidders. According to the qualification criteria mentioned in the EoI, the bidder should have prior experience in the core sector and is required to bring in technology, efficiency, and investment in steel making .

The proposed privatisation plan for SSP was opposed by the state government, political parties in the state, and unions.

The previous Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Edapaddi K Palaniswami, had said the state government, along with other political parties, would urge the Centre to drop the SSP privatisation plan.

In FY22, Salem Steel Plant reported profit before tax of Rs 58 crore, as against a loss before tax of Rs 127 crore in FY21. It posted a loss before tax of Rs 346 crore in FY20, Rs 259 crore in FY19, and Rs 211 crore in FY18, according to the annual reports of SAIL.