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Industry News

India's Vajpayee Sees 'Amicable Resolution'To Enron's Problems with Maharashtra State

LCG, Sept. 7, 2001--Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, speaking at a government-sponsored industrial conference in New Delhi today, assured an amicable resolution to the problem surrounding the Dabhol power project of U.S. energy firm Enron Corp.

Vajpayee's remarks follow an offer by Enron to sell its 65 percent interest in Dabhol at cost because it has been unable to find a solution for its dispute with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, the sole customer for Dabhol's electricity output.

The prime minister also asked Indian business to keep a clean slate and promised more investment to revive the Indian economy.

In his opening remarks to a meeting of the advisory council on trade and industry, Vajpayee said "The central government, in cooperation with the Maharashtra government, financial institutions and other partners, will facilitate an early and amicable resolution of the vexatious problem surrounding the Dabhol power project."

How much effect the prime minister's remarks will have is uncertain. Enron's confidence in the Indian central government has dwindled to the point it has file a notice of international arbitration after the federal government refused to honor a counter-guarantee against non-payment by the Maharashtra state electric monopoly of a $48 million bill for electricity.

The Indian government's refusal to honor its guarantee came after it was advised by the Maharashtra electricity board that Enron owed it about $1 billion in fines for failure to deliver power as promised. The next time you receive a dunning notice, tell your creditor to deduct the amount you owe from the fines you levied against him for sending dunning notices.

Earlier this week, Enron said it would complete construction of the 2,144 megawatt second phase of the Dabhol plant for whomever its new owners might be.

Other investors in the $2.9 billion Dabhol project are General Electric Co. and Bechtel Corp. with 10 percent each. The MSEB owns the remaining 15 percent interest.

At today's meeting, Vajpayee said the Indian government would move forward with additional power sector reforms, which include plans to reform the country's corrupt and inefficient state electricity boards.

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