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L&T leaps on better offer hopes

Mumbai, Oct. 17: The Larsen & Toubro (L&T) stock sizzled today on renewed hopes that the much-expected increase in offer price by the Birlas would come through. Another booster was speculation that group associates have already swooped in to soak up shares.

As anticipation peaked, the management of L&T went into a huddle after the return of Anil Manibhai Naik, managing director and CEO, from Europe. Senior officials confirmed that Naik had met the top-brass, but denied that the board had gathered to discuss the offer. A board meeting would mean that the A. V. Birla camp, which already owns around 14 per cent of the engineering and cements major, was represented.

Though the official declined to spell out details of what Naik focused on, there are reports that advising L&T shareholders on how they should respond to the offer was the main theme in the string of interactions today.

Some corporate watchers say the L&T management may seek expert opinion on adopting an independent stance on the offer made by the A. V. Birla group at Rs 190 a share.

On the BSE today, the L&T scrip opened at Rs 180.15, shot up to a dayís high of Rs 189.90 before finishing at Rs 189.15 ó close to the offer price announced by the Birlas. The close marks a gain of Rs 6.70, or 3.67 per cent, over the scripís last traded price on Wednesday. More than 5.87 lakh shares changed hands, much higher than its five-day average of 3.53 lakh.

On October 14, Grasim Industries made an open offer to buy an additional 20 per cent stake in L&T at a price of Rs 190 per share for Rs 945 crore. This came nearly a year after the group brought the Reliance groupís 10 per cent stake in L&T at a price of Rs 306.50 per share. Financial institutions, led by LIC, Unit Trust and General Insurance Corporation, hold over 38 per cent in L&T. They have expressed disappointment with the offer price, a steep discount to what the Birlas paid the Ambanis.

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