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Tatas decide to stay on with Haldia petro

Calcutta, Sept. 28: Tatas are not quitting Haldia Petrochemicals Limited (HPL), with group chairman Ratan Tata deciding to return to the board as director.

Tata had resigned from the HPL board after the group decided to quit on the ground that petrochem is a non-core area of business. Shyamal Gupta, the other Tata group representative on the board, had also stepped down.

Tata will be inducted into the board at its next meeting, expected to take place by end-October or early November.

At present, the Tata group’s investments in HPL are routed through Telco and Tata Power. Since neither of these companies is in the petrochem business, the group has decided that investment in HPL will be through Tata Sons, the holding company, sources said.

Initially, Tatas had entered HPL by way of their investment through Tata Tea in 1990.

Though the Tata group is staying on, its exposure in the Rs 5,170-crore HPL is expected to come down from the present level of 14 per cent. Tatas had injected Rs 180 crore towards the equity of HPL.

After the board meeting, HPL chairman Tarun Das said: “I can only say that I had requested Ratan Tata to continue in HPL. I am hopeful. His presence will carry a lot of weight when HPL goes in for an IPO.”

Das and Tata had met Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on September 16 at Writers’ Buildings. At the meeting, Tata had promised not to quit HPL, sources said.

Naresh Chandra, former Cabinet secretary and Indian ambassador to the US, was inducted into the board today. Jamshyd Godrej could not be inducted as he is in Europe.

“HPL will not be a Bengal company any more. We will give a national character to the company. Naresh Chandra has already been inducted on the board. Godrej is from the western part of the country. We will induct another independent director who will be from the southern part of the country,” Das said.

The HPL board briefed Chandra about the performance and the debt-restructuring package that has been offered to the company. HPL is currently earning an EBDIT (earning before depreciation, interest and tax) of Rs 34 crore every month.

Das said the next year will be a good year for HPL and it will become a profitable company.

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