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Row over Balco stake sale whispers

Raigarh, Nov. 2 (PTI): The employees’ union of Balco has sought government intervention to stop promoters Sterlite group from allegedly handing over the management of the aluminium major to a foreign player. Company officials, however, have denied such a move.

“Sterlite is indirectly trying to sell its stake in Balco to Mauritius-based company Twinstar Holdings at a hefty profit and transfer management control to that company,” Balco Employees’ Union general secretary Rajendra Mishra said here today.

Balco officials said there were no plans to hand over the management of the company to a foreign player.

Officials said union leaders have been apprised of the whole issue by the management and “they are satisfied”.

The government divested majority stake in the Rs 3,500 crore aluminium company to Sterlite for Rs 551 crore in March 2001, Mishra said, adding that Sterlite is now trying to sell it to Twinstar through the back-door at a hefty profit despite a three-year lock-in period on sale.

The union, affiliated to the RSS-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, also alleged that Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi and other leaders, who had earlier opposed the sell-off, were now “keeping mum”.

The union alleged that Twinstar has already purchased 55 per cent stake of Sterlite and has sought government permission to hike its stake by another 20 per cent.

Apprehending takeover of management control by the foreign firm, the union wants the Centre to look into the matter and, if necessary, take suitable action.

Balco officials, however, clarified that Twinstar is one of the major stakeholders of Sterlite, promoted by Anil Agarwal and his family.

Even if Twinstar wants to hike its stake in Sterlite, it would not affect Balco's management structure, they said.

The Balco management has allayed fears and informed the union of the latest developments at a meeting on Friday, company sources said.

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