Essar finance chief quits to return to uni

INDIAN FTSE 100 giant Essar Energy yesterday confirmed it is on track with aggressive growth plans in its domestic market, even as it sought to reassure investors over ongoing corporate governance issues.

But the group was hit by a setback yesterday as it emerged finance director Gerry Bacon is to step down at the end of August to return to university. His role will be filled by P. Sampath, chief financial officer of Essar Oil.

Essar, which listed on the London main market in May, said all of its power generation projects are on schedule and budget, easing fears over India’s notorious history of bureaucratic delays. The group plans to scale up its power operations in the country exponentially, ramping up capacity from 1,220 MW now to over 11,000 MW by the end of 2014.

Essar is still under pressure from UK investors for dragging its heels on hiring a fifth non-executive director, a measure promised at the time of its IPO to settle concerns over the extent of its independence from its powerful parent, industrial giant Essar Group.

“We are making good progress,” the firm insisted, though it admitted it could be the end of the year before an appointment is made.

Essar Energy revenues leapt 66 per cent to $4.76bn over the first half of 2010, though pre-tax profit slumped by a third to $154.4m, mainly due to a one-off inventory gain in 2009.