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Stage set for amicable settlement

Mumbai, Aug. 1: The tribunalís order may finally nudge the two warring groups to come to an amicable solution and bring to an end the fractious battle for control of the maker of Bagpiper whiskey.

What various forums could not do, the tribunal may have unwittingly done, feel observers who had been tracking the takeover battle for Herbertsons. While small investors hold a sizeable stake of over 23 per cent and will invariably benefit from the order, the die is now cast for the warring rivals to reach an understanding.

The more desperate of the two will now raise the offer to buy out the stake of the other. Otherwise the only option would be to move the Supreme Court against the SAT order.

All eyes will be now on the open offer price as complex arithmetic will go into the calculation of the same. In 1994, when the drama opened the share price of Herbertsons was hovering around Rs 70. So if the 15 per cent interest applicable is factored in, as per the regulations, then the open offer price should be anything between Rs 160 and Rs 175 while the current price of the Herbetsonsí scrip is little over Rs 30.

According to observers, either way the small shareholders who have clung on to the Herbertsons shares are going to gain.

The Mallya group said its legal experts are still studying the order and declined to comment. The Chhabria camp was overjoyed.

Those who have been following this corporate battle expect Mallya to finally pick up the gauntlet and make an offer that the Chhabrias cannot refuse. It may even mean giving up BDA, Herbertsons subsidiary, and its flagship brand Officerís Choice.

The see-saw battle of wits between the two saw fortunes shifting rapidly. If the Sebi order last year saw the Mallya group gaining the upperhand, this time the SAT order has given the uncle and nephew duo a major boost.

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