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Tatas seek HPL parting prize

Calcutta, Sept. 16: Ratan Tata today held talks on the price at which his company would transfer its stake in Haldia Petrochemicals (HPL) to the state government.

At an hour-long meeting with Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, where HPL chief Tarun Das was also present, talks focused on just how much each share was worth. The discussions come at a time when an equity-recast plan is being readied to get Gail as the fourth equity partner. The pipeline PSU has made up its mind to invest Rs 20 crore in return for a 10 per cent stake in Bengal’s showpiece industrial venture.

Tatas hold 14 per cent in the Rs 5,170-crore project; The Chatterjee Group and the state government have 43 per cent each.

The HPL chairman is pulling out all stops to present the debt as well as an equity restructuring package by the end of this month; if he doesn’t, loans to the company will turn into a non-performing asset with lenders.

“Share transfer is a major issue and we have been discussing this for quite a long time now. I cannot comment beyond this at present. I will speak about it later,” the chief minister told reporters after the meeting.

Das, known for his reputation to build bridges in corporate corridors, today played a mediator between the Tatas and the state government to ensure that the group’s exit from the project takes place as smoothly as possible.

Tata, however, made it clear that both he and Shyamal Gupta have resigned from the board of HPL. Earlier, speaking at the Tata Tea annual general meeting, he informed shareholders that the tea firm had finally started getting back its investment of Rs 12 crore in the cash-strapped Haldia Petrochemicals.

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