By Tarjei Leer-Salvesen
"Utkal is a long-term development project. We are working together with the partners in Utkal Alumina to build up the company, and are now in the process of finishing up a joint venture agreement that regulates all economic and legal relationships between the partners. At the same time we are looking for a new fourth partner. Our goal is to have Utkal Alumina ready for a final investment decision in the year 2001."
It is Jon-Harald Nilsen, the division director of Hydro Aluminium Metal, who said this in an interview with Norsk Hydro's internal magazine, Profil. This implies that the project again will be postponed. Until recently, Norsk Hydro claimed that the investment decision should be taken in the third quarter of 2000.
The ownership structure of Utkal Alumina has changed much over the past years. The controversial bauxite and aluminum project was first made public in 1991. Norsk Hydro has, since 1993, participated in the consortium that since then has carried the name Utkal Alumina International Ltd. (UAIL). At that time, Norsk Hydro and the two Indian companies Indian Aluminium (Indal) and Tata Industries owned a third each.
During the spring of 1998, the Canadian company Alcan joined as a partner. After some negotiations the new ownership structure was as follows: Hydro 40%, Alcan 20%, Indal 20%, and Tata 20%. But during 1998 Alcan bought control of Indal, and became an equal partner with Norsk Hydro.
Just before Christmas 1998, Tata announced that it wished to withdraw from the whole project, as it did not fit into the company's future strategy, and as the project had become a sore thumb due to all the resistance the project experienced from the local population. Tata withdrew in January 1999, and the ownership structure was again renegotiated.
Today Hydro owns 45%, while Alcan controls the company through a 35% direct interest in addition to its control over another 20% through Indal.
The information about the new time frame for the investment decision was confirmed by Hydro's Director of Information, Thomas Knutzen, by phone to NorWatch the 3rd of September.
To those of our readers who wish additional background information concerning the Utkal project we can offer several supporting documents. Everything from Norwegian and Indian newspaper articles to reports concerning the case, both from the company and others can be ordered by phone on ++ 47 22 20 10 45.
Norwatch Newsletter 14/99