The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wadia picks Nikhil Sen to manage Britannia

Calcutta, Aug. 8: Britannia Industries has appointed Nikhil Sen — its chief operating officer — as manager, the company informed the bourses today.

The appointment was finalised at a board meeting that took place at a city hotel here today soon after the company’s annual general meeting.

Observers say 44-year old Sen will have all the powers of a managing director but will not be on the company’s board. Sen has been with the biscuit major for over 23 years.

Sen, who is not a member of the 10-member Britannia board, sat between chairman Nusli . Wadia and independent director Nimesh . Kampani at the company’s AGM, which, in a way, pointed at the preferment.

Britannia is without a managing director since Sunil K. Alagh was asked to leave in early June. The company said he was sacked for “conducting himself in a manner incompatible and inconsistent with (his) duties and responsibilities”.

Britannia has appointed an independent auditor to scrutinise the alleged financial irregularities of Alagh and establish the loss if any, but says they were unlikely to have any significant impact on operations.

Answering shareholders, chairman Nusli Wadia said loans given to senior executives of the company were vetted by the board. Differences with Alagh arose when it was found that he had taken money out of the company without authorisation from the board. “It’s a breach of trust. Such things happen, and could happen in every walk of life,” Wadia said.

Meanwhile, Britannia said it was setting up a new factory in Uttaranchal at a cost of Rs 60 crore. It would have a capacity to produce 60,000 tonnes of biscuits in the beginning, which could be scaled up to 80,000 tonnes going forward. The production facility will be functional by the end of next year.

The company, that has a 40 per cent share of the biscuit market by volume, said it was looking to post a robust growth this year through extension of its product range and sales outlets.

Wadia said Britannia was aiming to establish itself as the lowest-cost producer in the world. The company, however, has indicated that its profitability could come under pressure if VAT (value-added tax) was introduced. It has already made representations to the empowered committee looking into introduction of VAT, to cut tax on biscuits from 12 to 4 per cent.

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