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L&T- the specialty of special purpose vehicles

A decade ago, engineering and construction giant Larsen & Toubro conceived a bold, new plan: to form separate subsidiaries or special purpose vehicles to focus on new projects. This enabled the company to access and acquire expertise in new areas such as toll roads and bridges, airports, seaports, metro and rail systems.  I remember the foresight and passion with which A Ramakrishna (AR) explained this foray.

Of course, such a pioneering effort, involved certain business risks. AR took efforts to explain the benefits of the toll road concept, which found resistance in the initial period. In quick time, the concept gained acceptance and opened the floodgates for massive expansion of quality road network. With handsome funding by the private sector, road construction recorded growth as never before.

Equally innovative was the lead taken by L&T ECC to form a separate company for the construction of the Bengaluru airport. Its reputation and record were helpful in ensuring participation by reputed global companies. This experience was a big stepping-stone for taking up construction of the much larger airports at Delhi and Mumbai.

Such enterprise extended to form more such companies. The large Dhamra Port in Odisha in partnership with the Tatas is another major venture. K V Rangaswamy who headed the construction division pointed to L&T gaining rich expertise in such diverse fields for engineering and construction, build value and sell its share in such projects to good profit. The company thus derives twin advantages: getting  orders for constructing such large projects and on completion, to sell these at profit.

The L&T Shipbuilding Ltd on which L&T has invested around Rs 4000 crore is another example of a handsome diversification. This project has three components: an engineering unit, shipbuilding cum repair facility and a container port. The present recessionary conditions come in the way of full utilisation of the niche facilities created. With the expected turn around of the economy, the operations would become profitable.

 The construction division had been accounting for around half the revenues of the giant corporation. With the slowdown in the economy affecting the manufacturing sector in the current year, the construction division may account for larger share, of around 75 per cent, of the revenues of the corporation.

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