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Ambanis face-to-face again; eye Karnataka power plant

Last updated on: September 1, 2010 10:24 IST

Ambanis face-to-face again; eye Karnataka power plant

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Mahesh Kulkarni in Bengaluru


For the first time after settling their family dispute and withdrawing the non-compete clause in May, brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambani are again competing face-to-face, in a bid for the Rs 7,500-crore (Rs 75 billion), 1,320-Mw thermal power project at Gulbarga in north Karnataka.

This is the first time that Mukesh's Reliance Industries Ltd has sought to set up a non-captive, mega power plant in the country.

This is the second time that Power Company of Karnataka Ltd (PCKL), a Karnataka government undertaking, has shortlisted bidders for the Gulbarga Thermal Power Project, to be constructed on a build-own-operate basis.

PCKL had first floated bids in 2007 for a 2x660 Mw (1,320 Mw) coal-based power plant at Farhatabad near Gulbarga in north Karnataka. Eleven companies were qualified out of 14 bidders. RIL was not among them.

However, after Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) raised certain objections, PCKL invited fresh bids in July and another 12 companies qualified, including RIL.

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Image: Ambani brothers Mukesh and Anil with their father Dhirubhai.
Photographs: Reuters
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Request-for-proposal documents have been issued to all of them, a top official in PCKL told Business Standard.

Other companies that have qualified to submit financial proposals include Tata Power, GMR Energy, Jindal Power, Shree Cement, IRB Infrastructure Developers, Sterlite Energy, Aditya Birla Essel Mining & Industries, GVK Industries, AES (India), Adani Power, Dalmia Power and Videocon.

PCKL is yet to finalise the last date for submission of financial and non-financial documents. However, it wants to complete the process of selecting the lowest (or, L1) bidder by the end of December, the official said.

The project will be constructed over a period of four years from the date of signing the agreement and the entire power generated would be supplied to the state grid, he added.

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Image: Anil Ambani
Photographs: Reuters
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"We have already acquired 1,500-acre land at Farhatabad near Gulbarga and provided 2 tmcft of water linkage from the Gugal barrage across the Krishna river in Raichur. However, the selected company will have to tie up coal linkage on its own," the official said.

The project is likely to use imported coal. He said once the L1 bidder is selected, approval would be sought from the KERC before awarding the project.

This is the first project taken up by PCKL under the competitive bid route. Apart from this, PCKL is also in the process of developing another 1,320-Mw thermal power project in Ghataprabha taluk of Belgaum district.

This project is currently held up due to a delay in land acquisition. PCKL is also coordinating with NTPC to set up a 4,000 Mw super-critical thermal power project at Kudigi in Bijapur district.

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Image: Mukesh Ambani
Photographs: Reuters
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Power generation has become a lucrative destination for India's corporate sector, following the opening up of the sector for private players through the Electricity Act, 2003.

Earlier, Business Standard had reported that RIL was planning to not only bid for ultra mega power projects (UMPPs), but also acquire power plants.

RIL is likely to bid for the 4,000-Mw Surguja UMPP coming up in Chhattisgarh and a similar project in Bedabahal in Orissa. Bidding for UMPPs will be a strategic move for RIL to create large-scale power generation capacity, said industry observers.

Mukesh Ambani missed out on the power sector because of non-compete agreements with younger brother Anil following a family split in 2005. RIL already operates a 1,000-Mw power plant at its refineries in Jamnagar.


Image: Mukesh and Anil Ambani.
Photographs: Reuters
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