“Now I will only go up and not look back,” Tulsi Tanti told a confidante, who, like Tanti, is also a doyen of the wind industry, adding that all Tanti’s problems “including my bad time” were over. This was on Thursday. On Saturday, Tanti passed away, after a cardiac attack. People close to the teetotaler say that the stress of turning around the company, which involved incessant back-to-back meetings, took him.
A great loss
Suzlon, the company that Tanti started in the 1995, was among the pioneers of the wind industry in India and, a decade later, was among the top 5 wind turbine manufacturers in the world. The Indian wind industry has certainly lost a big personality, whose mere presence mattered. “We now have an extra burden when we deal with the Government without Tanti’s towering personality,” D V Giri, Secretary of the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers’ Association (IWTMA), told this correspondent today.
Well, it is a loss for the wind industry, but what of Suzlon? The company’s top brass has been telling the Press that Tanti’s passing away would not affect the fortunes of the company and would not affect the rights issue that is to open soon—but what else can they say? Truly, nobody can say that the loss of Tanti’s leadership is immaterial. This correspondent is reminded of a remark of Toine van Megan, a former CEO of Suzlon, a few years ago, that yes, Suzlon indeed is going through a tough phase, but Tulsi Tanti will see it through.
Troubles and debts
Suzlon got into trouble when it took over the German wind turbine manufacturer, RePower, in 2007 for ₹7,300 crore. The acquisition was funded partly by a debt of ₹4,000 crore. RePower had about 300 Euros of free cash; the idea was to use the money to repay the Indian debt. But, the German banks, citing some rule, refused to allow the money to be taken outside Germany.
Unable to repay a huge debt, Suzlon sold RePower to Senvion in 2015 for a billion euros, or about ₹7,000 crore. Interest payment burden lessened, but remained.
End of Suzlon’s problems
As at end March 2019, the company had ₹7,751 crore of debt; as at end June 2022, this stood reduced to ₹3,272 crore—thanks to a conversion of financial instruments to equity in Q1 of this year. Now, the company is raising ₹1,200 crore, which is expected to be subscribed, notwithstanding, the passing away of Tanti—because the company has reported a good performance in Q1, with net profit of ₹2,433 crore compared with net loss of ₹166 crore in FY22.
Also, the company is sitting on an order book for 692 MW. Furthermore, the wind industry, after being in the doldrums for four years, is looking up, thanks to some policy revisions and market developments, such as the evolution of merchant power plants.
As mentioned earlier, Tanti himself had indicated to his confidante that Suzlon’s problems were over. The numbers seem to back him.