Exide Ltd plans to turn Haldia into battery-making hub in South East Asia

Amara Raja batteries, Exide

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Exide Industries Ltd on Tuesday set in motion efforts to turn its Haldia unit into one of the biggest battery-making centers in South-East Asia, churning out everything from recycled lead to finished products.

India's largest automotive battery maker embarked on this mission by laying the foundation stone for two greenfield projects in Haldia, which are likely to entail an investment of close to Rs 5.5 billion.

"We are embarking on a two-pronged strategy to make West Bengal's port city of Haldia one of the largest and integrated self-sufficient battery-making centers in South-East Asia, where we manufacture everything from recycled lead to finished battery," Exide MD and CEO Gautam Chatterjee said here.

Haldia is already a major manufacturing hub for the company, accounting for one-third of its total battery production.

Chatterjee said the contribution from the Haldia facility will rise to a little less than 40 per cent of the overall production, once the new plants - a recycling unit and a nickle-cadmium and lead acid factory - are commissioned.

Exide Industries envisages setting up of a 40,000 square metre shed, where it will carry out three activities - manufacture nickel-cadmium batteries, set up a mega charging station, and augment battery manufacturing capacity of Haldia by 1.2 lakh units per month, at a total cost of Rs 4 billion.

It is also putting up the country's "largest" battery recycling plant with a monthly capacity of 15,000 metric tonnes, in a technical tie-up with Italy's Energitech Technolgies. The two existing recycling units are in Pune and Bangalore, having a combined monthly capacity of 11,500 metric tonnes.

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The company's lead recycling operations are carried out by its wholly-owned subsidiary Chloride Metals Ltd, which clocked a turnover of Rs 20.13 billion in 2017-18. Exide uses over 40 per cent recycled lead in its batteries.

The two projects will be funded by the company's internal reserves. For the 2018-19 fiscal, it plans a capital expenditure of Rs 11 billion, a bulk of which will be spent on the greenfield plants.

Chatterjee said the nickle-cadmium batteries are targeted for use in bullet trains, the first of which is scheduled to come up between Ahmedabad and Mumbai by 2023.

"We have a technical tie-up with Furukawa of Japan, which supplies batteries to Hitachi for bullet trains. So, I find no reason Furukawa will not source batteries from us," he said.

Earlier in the day, West Bengal's Minister for Transport and Environment and Chairman of Haldia Development Authority, Suvendu Adhikari laid the foundation of the two new plants, which would come up on an area of 20 acres each.