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India's Jindal Steel and Power says enquiries from European buyers on the rise

FILE PHOTO: Workers walk inside the Jindal Power and Steel Ltd. complex at Nisha village

By Neha Arora

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India's Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSP) has received a flurry of enquiries from European buyers seeking finished steel products, indicating an uptick in exports in the current quarter through March, a senior company executive said on Tuesday. His comments come after JSP reported a nearly 68% drop in profits for the quarter ended Dec. 31, hit by the government's decision to levy an export tax in May last year on some steel intermediates and a fall in global demand.

"We did see some increase in the order book and a lot of enquiries (from Europe)," Bimlendra Jha, managing director of Jindal Steel and Power, told Reuters in an interview. Hit by the government's decision to levy the export tax, India's overall exports of finished steel more than halved during the first nine months of the fiscal year that began in April 2022. That sharp drop forced the government to lift the export tax in November, but steel companies have complained about a loss of share in traditional markets, including Europe. "It is not as if there is a huge move that will occur butthere is some respite," Jha said, suggesting his company expects exports to pick up only gradually. During the third quarter of the current fiscal year, the share of JSP's exports to its overall sales dropped to 5% from 23% a year earlier. Jha said rising costs of raw materials such as coking coal, especially since the end of December, had led to a rise in steel prices in India. But domestic demand was expected to be robust, particularlyfrom the infrastructure and construction sectors, he said. Allaying fears of cheaper steel imports flooding the Indian market, Jha said Russian cargoes did not pose a major challenge to Indian steel makers. "Just because there are few distressed cargoes here andthere, I don't think there is much reason to worry (about Russian steel imports)," Jha said. Last week, JSW Steel Ltd, the country's top steelmaker, said there were concerns about the potential dumping ofsteel from China and Russia into the country.

(Reporting by Neha Arora; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Mark Potter)