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Rush of bids in Bengal selloff

Calcutta, Sept. 23: Around 50 private companies have responded to the Bengal government’s invitation to buy controlling stakes in 10 state-owned enterprises.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting and consultancy firm which was appointed adviser by the government for the exercise, today submitted the list of companies that have showed their keenness — called expression of interest in business jargon — on taking over the managements of the 10 enterprises.

“The private sector has reposed its faith in the credibility of the state government,” Sunil Mitra, the industrial reconstruction secretary, said.

Mitra, who also heads the department of public enterprises, appeared overwhelmed by the response.

In the advertisement seeking bids, the government had said it is “open to manpower restructuring and waiver of outstanding liabilities to ensure sustainable viability of these units”.

Mitra said there were takers for all the 10 companies. “In some cases seven to eight parties have showed interest in one or more companies and the most encouraging part is that the responses have come from all over the country and some even from overseas,” he added, but would not disclose names at this stage.

The 10 companies which are up for divestment ranging from 51 to 74 per cent are: Shalimar Works — engaged in coastal and riverine vessel building and repair; National Iron and Steel Company — manufactures steel bars and sections and structural products; West Bengal Chemical Industries Ltd — pharmaceutical chemicals and packaged drinking water; Lily Biscuit — makes a wide range of biscuits; Carter Pooler — forklift bus body building; Engel India Machine Tools — injection moulding machine, polymer compounds; Neo Pipes and Tubes — copper and copper alloy extruded products; Krishna Silicate and Glass — glass containers and glazed ceramic tiles; West Bengal Plywood and Allied Products — plywood block board, door frames and trading in organic manure; Apollo Zipper — metal zip fasteners, bottom stops and cotton tapes.

It will take some days to separate the wheat from the chaff among the bidders. Mitra said: “I am yet to be certain how many offers are valid and if the prospective partners have complied with the net worth criterion.”

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