JSW Steel is said to be the biggest contender for buying Stemcor Holdings’ iron ore assets in Orissa, India.

The company’s managing director, Seshagiri Rao, says that JSW is a serious bidder and is in the process of conducting a due diligence exercise.

With debts amounting to $1.2 billion, Stemcor is selling up. The company hopes to offload a 4Mt pellet plant and a majority stake in an iron ore mine and a slurry pipeline in Orissa.

Other potential buyers include Tata Steel and Jindal Steel and Power, although Tata’s group executive director Koushik Chatterjee said that Tata was not seriously interested. Other possible contenders include Essel Mining and Industries (part of Aditya Birla Group), Glencore India and Vedanta Resources.

Industry analysts argue that if JSW did purchase Stemcor’s Indian assets it will take the company further into debt. However, the assets concerned would be ‘ready to use’ and not require additional investment.

The deadline for submitting bids for Stemcor’s Indian assets is now 6 January 2014.