July 17: Grasim Industries, the country’s largest cement maker headed by Kumar Mangalam Birla, has retained Lodha & Company as its auditor.
The Birlas and the Lodhas are locked in a battle over the inheritance of the MP Birla group’s Rs 5,000-crore assets, which a will attributed to Priyamvada Birla has left to R.S. Lodha.
The Birlas’ decision to keep the sword sheathed at Grasim has come at a time when both camps are keeping their options open by loading legal weapons as well as exploring the possibility of a settlement.
The renomination of Lodha & Company as the cement giant’s joint statutory auditor was cleared at the annual general meeting of Grasim Industries at Gwalior. “All the resolutions were passed,” said D.D. Rathi, a board member of Grasim, the cement and textile showpiece in the Aditya Birla stable. Grasim chief Kumar Mangalam is the grandson of B.K. Birla, one of the Birla elders at the forefront of the inheritance battle.
Asked whether a special resolution naming G P Kapadia & Company and Lodha & Company, Delhi, was cleared, Rathi said: “When I say all resolutions were passed, it means that the appointment of the auditors was also cleared.”
The appointment coincided with widespread speculation that the Birla boardrooms could become a battleground where the war of the will will be fought out.
Rathi said the resolutions were drafted sometime ago but analysts in Mumbai pointed out that the company could still have changed the auditors had it wanted to do so. “They could have withdrawn the resolution at the AGM,” an analyst said.
Another resolution cleared at the meeting has appointed the Mumbai wing of Lodha & Company as auditor of two divisions of the cement company. Lodha & Company is also the auditor of several other Birla companies.
A key board meeting is coming up on Tuesday when directors of Birla Corporation, the flagship of the MP Birla group, will gather.
R.S. Lodha is expected to go to court on the same day to probate (authenticate) the will. Lawyer Anindya Mitra has been commissioned to file the application.
The Birlas have sought a copy of the will but a section of lawyers in Calcutta said Lodha is bound to furnish a copy only after the probate is challenged.
The Birlas had yesterday addressed speculation on the significance of Pilani Investments, which has strategic holdings in several Birla companies. The Birlas said in a statement that while the MP Birla family holds around 25 per cent in Pilani Investments, the other Birla families together hold about 60 per cent of the equity.
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