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Mallya plea on Herbertsons offer spiked

Mumbai, Sept. 2: Vijay Mallya’s United Breweries Holdings was staring at the prospect of losing Herbertsons’ control when a suit filed by it to stop rival Kishore Chhabria’s open offer was tossed out by a tribunal.

The Securities Appellate Tribunal slammed the door on his appeal — a last-gasp bid to stave off the Chhabria group from gaining control of Herbertsons, the maker of popular Bagpiper and Officer’s Choice whisky.

The order by the tribunal, where orders passed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) are contested, has raised hopes that this is the last stand in the seven-year spat over who holds the reins of the company.

The spotlight will now shift to a possible amicable settlement between the friends-turned-foes who have not pulled any punches. The order comes as Chhabria announced his open offer last week at Rs 90.50 per share. The deal is yet to be cleared by regulators.

Dismissing review applications filed by Mallya and his holding company, the tribunal said: “In fact, the Mallya group has failed to specify in the applications how it is aggrieved by our order. The Mallya group is under the apprehension that acquiring shares as part of the order would cause it to loose control over the target company.”

SAT had last month asked Chhabria to make an open offer, setting aside a February 2002 Sebi order asking him and Mallya to offload stakes in excess of 10 per cent.

Kapil Sibal, arguing for the Chhabrias, said Mallya has sought review of the order based on fear that he will loose control of Herbertsons. “That apprehension is not a ground for the review of the order.”

Corporate lawyers say, Mallya now has only Supreme Court as his legal recourse.

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