The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bids for Harshad’s ACC shares due in September

Calcutta, Aug. 28: The custodian of tainted stockbroker Harshad Mehta’s properties will be inviting bids for a substantial stake in Associated Cement Companies (ACC) by the end of September.

The custodian intends to put a little over 12 per cent of ACC’s shares on the block. An application has been moved in the special court in Mumbai seeking transfer of the disputed shares — some of them benami — in favour of the custodian. (Benami shares are those that do not have a clear owner/beneficiary.)

“ACC has asked the court for its approval for registering the benami shares in the name of the custodian. The court has yet to consider the application made by the company, but this would result in the shares being registered in favour of the custodian,” said a source in the custodian’s office in Mumbai.

Once the shares have been registered and dematerialised by ACC, the custodian intends to invite bids. The court should clear it within next week, and ACC should not take more than a couple of weeks to have them registered in the name of the custodian, sources added.

ACC, the country’s second largest cement company, is professionally managed without any acknowledged promoter. Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd (GACL), promoted by the Sekhsarias and Neotias, has a 14.43 per cent stake in it that it had acquired from the Tatas a few years ago at Rs 900 crore — or Rs 370 per share.

The shares of ACC are currently trading at around Rs 205. At current market price, the substantial block of shares that the custodian intends to sell is valued at around Rs 425.

If GACL acquires the shares it will cross the 15 per cent threshold on substantial acquisition of shares, and will have to make a cash offer to the shareholders of ACC for another 20 per cent in the company.

At the current market price of ACC, acquiring the custodian’s stake and making a cash offer to the shareholders for another 20 per cent will entail a capital investment of around Rs 1,150 crore. Industry observers say GACL is unlikely to invest such a large sum at this point.

Some analysts say ACC could buy back these shares from the custodian in the same way as Apollo Tyres bought back a substantial holding. Others differ. “A buyback in ACC looks unlikely as the domestic institutions that have a near 30 per cent stake in the company are likely to oppose the cash outflow,” said an analyst.

There are unconfirmed reports that some foreign cement majors have been looking to pick up the stake. Insurance behemoth LIC, too, could bid for the shares. It holds 16.17 per cent in ACC at present.

Meanwhile, the custodian raked in close to Rs 100 crore from the sale of benami shares in five companies — Reliance Industries, ITC, Apollo Tyres, Punjab Tractors and Tata Tea. LIC picked up 14.6 lakh shares of Reliance at Rs 365 apiece, while stockbroker Ashok Samani acquired 1.17 lakh shares of ITC at Rs 770 per share.

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