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September 1, 2008

India’s Tata sees opportunities in Laos
India’s Tata Steel, the world’s sixth largest steel-maker, is looking at acquiring iron ore deposits in Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), reported Indian daily Business Standard on its online edition.

The Tata group-owned steel company has already started prospecting some mines in Communist-ruled Laos.

Speaking to Business Standard, Soulivong Daravong, Laotian minister of planning and investment, said that though there was no formal proposal from the Indian company as yet, "they were prospecting some iron ore deposits quietly".

Daravong was part of a delegation that accompanied the southeast Asian country's President Choummaly Sayasone on a five-day visit to India that concluded on Saturday.

The minister also said that the Tata group was keen on investing in the hydro power sector in the country. Laos is welcoming private investment in the mining and hydro power sectors.

Even though 100-percent foreign direct investment was allowed in most sectors, a foreign company would have to form a joint venture with the government for projects related to natural resources.

B Muthuraman, managing director, Tata Steel, met Sayasone in Kolkata on Friday.

Sizeable deposits of iron ore are known to exist in Laos, which is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. If the acquisition materialises, then it would be the third foreign iron ore deposit in Tata Steel’s portfolio.

Tata Steel has a greenfield steel project in Vietnam, which includes a 30-per cent stake in Thach Khe Iron Ore joint stock company. The joint stock company would undertake mining in the Thach Khe iron ore mine.

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