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Industry News

Enron Close to Pulling Out of India

LCG, May 21, 2001Inching toward a decision that could devastate India's desire to attract foreign investment to infrastructure projects, U.S. energy company Enron Corp. on Saturday took a significant step that could result in the failure of the largest such investment on the subcontinent.

Enron's 65 percent-owned Dabhol Power Co. issued a preliminary notice to terminate its contract to sell electricity to the Indian state of Maharashtra, saying that both the state and the federal government of India were reneging on contracts signed in 1995.

"After months of working with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, and the governments of Maharashtra and India to find solutions, it is apparent that they are unwilling to honor their offtake commitments for the entire power station," Dabhol said in a statement.

From Houston, Enron backed up its Indian subsidiary. "The preliminary termination notice is a clear signal as it moves us closer to termination of the agreement. If the current problems are not resolved then ultimately (Dabhol) and its lenders and shareholders will still have a recourse to substantial remedies for termination damages under the agreement," an Enron spokesman said.

The preliminary notice sets in motion a six-month "cooling off" period during which parties to the dispute will attempt to resolve their differences. Dabhol has said it will be happy to talk, but added that it would not under any circumstances renegotiate terms of the 1995 agreements.

The 2,184 megawatt gas-fired Dabhol power plant on India's west coast not far from Bombay is largest foreign investment. The 740 megawatt first phase of the project began producing power last year and the Maharashtra State Electricity Board almost immediately began delaying payment for power delivered to it. Each month, Dabhol has been forced to invoke first the guarantees of Maharashtra state and then those of India itself in order to get paid.

With the 1,444 megawatt second phase of the project scheduled to begin commercial operation next month, the electricity board, backed by Maharashtra state, has said it does not need the power after all and is attempting to back out of its obligation to purchase the plant's output.

Dabhol's statement said the company was amenable to "constructive discussion on solutions," but also said the only acceptable solution would be for the parties contractually obligated to purchase Dabhol's power to actually buy it or find other creditworthy buyers.

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