The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Space-strapped ONGC sizes up Hind Copper hub

Calcutta, May 12: Tamra Bhavan, the prominent Ashutosh Chowdhury Avenue landmark near Ballygunge, is waiting for a change of hand. On the way out is Hindustan Copper (HCL), whose headquarters nestles in the building. Moving in will be Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), a firm looking for a redoubt big enough to oversee its eastward march.

Hind Copper officials have quoted a figure of Rs 15 crore for the four-storey building, sources said. “ONGC has, in principle, agreed to buy it and discussions, mainly on the price, are in an advanced stage,” they added.

A senior ONGC executive confirmed the move, saying the state-owned oil major needs more space to operate as it spreads its wings wider in the eastern region. “We now work from two to three small places, which is not always convenient for a company of our size and breadth. The acquisition of Tamra Bhavan will help us bring major operations under one roof,” he added.

With an area of 60,000 square metres spread over four floors, the “not-so-old” building has a strong foundation that could facilitate the addition of two more floors in an expansion that will increase space by 30,000 sq.m.

HCL officials were not available for comment. A spokesperson failed to offer rudimentary financial data on a company that has been high on the selloff roster.

Saddled with losses piled over the years, the public sector unit is considering shifting base to Delhi, where it has already acquired space in SCOPE Minar. The move, however, is being delayed due to resistance from employees clamouring for a long-overdue wage deal.

The cash crunch has forced the company to resort to property sales, including putting its hub on the block. It carried a loan burden of over Rs 800 crore in September 2001, and has continued to bleed over the years.

ONGC, by contrast, is counting on a Bengal booty. It has renewed its interest in off-shore and on-shore drilling in Sunderbans and Contai, and lined up large investments in coal-bed methane projects in the state and Jharkhand.

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