New Delhi, April 29: Steel tycoon Lakshmi N. Mittal today pitched for auctions to allocate natural resources in India, joining the debate triggered by the Supreme Court in the 2G spectrum case.
"I have never been given anything in my life. I have always worked to get it. Why should anything be given to anybody?" Mittal said.
The Supreme Court, while cancelling 122 licences granted in 2008 by former telecom minister A. Raja in the 2G case, had observed that "all national resources must be distributed only through auction".
As the apex court's observations have ramifications in other sectors, too, the government has filed a presidential reference asking if its judgment in the 2G case makes the auction of natural resources compulsory.
Mittal, who has a net worth of $18.7 billion, said "with IT the world is so transparent, everything is known to everybody… the allocation should be through an equitable transparent process".
Mittal said he was not worried about the slowdown in growth, which is forecast at 6.9 per cent in 2011-12 against 8.4 per cent in the previous year.
"The India story is not over…Whatever may happen in terms of policies and paralysis, the country will continue to grow."
"While we should continue to strive for higher growth rate... I think we should not be contended, but I think we should not take it negatively that the India growth story is over. There is tremendous potential," he said.
Only last week, Standard and Poor's cut the nation's sovereign credit outlook to negative, citing slow investments and growth.
"We are like China 20 years back. Our benchmark should not be China. Our benchmark should be the United States," Mittal said.
The ArcelorMittal CEO said he would continue to wait even as his investments in Odisha, Jharkhand and Karnataka had not made much progress in the past five years.
"I am not giving up now. I am a little bit concerned. I feel bad. My country is not making progress. We can never ignore India, the future is here," Mittal said.
However, though India remained a priority for ArcelorMittal, the country had slipped on its investment list with the focus shifting to projects in Canada, Liberia and Brazil.
"India is clearly on our priority list but it may be very low on our investment list. It depends on the progress of the projects, how we see things in five years."
ArcelorMittal has been able to acquire only 1,800 acres of the 2,800 acres required for its proposed Rs 30,000 crore, 6-million-tonne Karnataka project.
Its plan to build two steel mills of 12 million tonnes each in Jharkhand and Odisha, too, have not made much progress.
"If a project is not making progress, we will not be investing. We have a very rigorous capital allocation system in the company," Mittal said.
According to Mittal, the capacity of the 9-million-tonne Bhatinda refinery will be expanded in phases, and the company may look at an initial public offering.
HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL), a joint venture between state-owned HPCL and Mittal Energy Investment Pte Ltd, Singapore (an LN Mittal Group Company),built the Rs 21,500-crore Guru Govind Singh refinery. The two hold a 49 per cent stake each in HMEL, while the remaining 2 per cent are with financial institutions.
Mittal said public listed companies were a more desirable model. The two promoters may sell 10 per cent stake each in the IPO that is not likely to take place before next year.
"HPCL Mittal Energy Ltd is a good platform to grow (in energy space)," Mittal said.
However, the priority now is to stabilise production at Bhatinda. After a year, Mittal would consider raising capacity of the refinery to 11.2 million tonnes. "I am not ready for my guys to think loud (about the future)," he added.