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Hong Kong's JB Group to invest Rs 15 bn in India

JB Group will invest Rs 15 billion in similar activities as well as the hospitality sector in India during fiscal 2008-09.

business Updated: Dec 16, 2007 12:51 IST

Hong Kong-based globally diversified $3-billion JB Group, the first Indian-owned company to secure mining rights in China, will invest Rs 15 billion ($380 million) in similar activities as well as the hospitality sector in India during fiscal 2008-09, company officials said.

"We've firmed up plans for investing between Rs 10 billion and Rs 15 billion in the mining and hospitality sectors and in promoting two-way trade between India and global markets," JB Group vice president for corporate affairs Jatin Chukte said.

"We're conducting due diligence for acquiring iron ore, bauxite and limestone mines in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa and will also set up a five-star hotel at Goa. At a later stage, we will look at Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh for mining operations," Chutke told IANS in an interview.

"We will also set up a greenfield steel plant in one of the southern states. A core team of 15 professionals is working on the roadmap for this," he added.

The Shillong-born Hong Kong-based Chutke was here as part of a 20-member delegation that accompanied the territory's Finance Secretary John Tsang Chun-Wah to India to explore two-way business opportunities between the former British colony and India.

"Essentially, we are looking at ramping up opportunities in the banking, finance, insurance and wealth management sectors," Chutke said of the mission.

Apart from meetings with Indian business honchos, the delegation also interacted with Minister of State for Finance Pawan Kumar Bansal and Finance Secretary Vinod Rai. The delegation was in Mumbai on December 11-13 and thereafter in New Delhi till December 16.

"As for me personally, I look on the JB Group as a bridge between India and China. Since we are based in Hong Kong, we understand the nitty-gritties of conducting business with China. Since we have Indian roots, we understand the climate in India. Thus, we are in a unique position of conducting business and acting as a facilitator," Chutke said.

The JB Group is named after its founders Jivraj Surani and Bhagwan Kukadia. Founded in Surat in 1965 as a diamond polishing company, it now operates in markets across the globe with a broad and rapidly expanding portfolio in mining, oil, gas and alternative energy, real estate, international trade and consultancy, and diamonds.

The company has evolved from its base in India to offices and operations in emerging markets across Asia and Africa as well as developed economies in the US and Europe with over 18,000 employees. Using Hong Kong as a global launch pad since 1993, the group has focused on the world's three most dynamic hubs of India, China and the Middle East as part of its drive into international markets.

Speaking about the group's investment in India, Chutke said the JB Group is "well equipped for setting up integrated steel facilities to add value to the process by producing sponge iron, and flat and round finished steel".

"Further, the group will also put up an aluminium plant and a coal-to-methanol refinery to replicate our facility in Inner Mongolia (in northern China)," he added.

The China facility, acquired in 2005, was a major breakthrough for the group, giving it access to over 800 million metric tonnes of coal in a mining area of 19.7675 sq km of area on a 30-year license.

The group is also in the process of setting up a coal-to-methanol refinery in China that is likely to be operational by late 2008 with an initial production capacity of 300,000 tonnes per annum that will expand to 1.2 million tonnes per annum on an investment of $350 million.

This apart, the group has acquired rights for mining of metals and minerals from iron ore to coal, bauxite and gold in Indonesia, Angola and Tanzania, and is also engaged in upscale office and hotel developments in Dubai and Oman.

The group also has jewellery manufacturing facilities in China, Thailand and India, and two major jewellery brands - SoulMate in the US and Venti in China.