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Lodha target of non-Birla twins

Calcutta, Aug. 28: Lodha & Co is now facing the heat from non-Birla companies.

Two Calcutta-based non-Birla companies — Dhunseri Tea and South Asian Petrochem, both owned by C.K. Dhanuka — will seek to remove Lodha & Co as auditors at their annual general meetings scheduled for September 16.

This is the first time that two non-Birla companies have decided to remove Lodha & Co as their auditor. The Lodhas are locked in a legal battle with the Birlas after a will attributed to Priyamvada Birla left the assets of the MP Birla group to Rajendra S. Lodha.

Some of the Birla companies owned by Kumar Mangalam Birla, B.K. Birla and Yashovardhan Birla have either removed or are in the process of removing Lodha & Co as their auditors.

Dhanuka, the chairman of Dhunseri Tea as well as the vice-chairman of South Asian Petrochem, said: “I, as a shareholder of the company, have given the notice to remove Lodha & Co as auditors of both the companies. I have sought shareholders’ approval for replacing Lodha & Co with Lovelock & Lewes.”

Asked why he wants to replace the Lodha firm, Dhanuka said: “I am uncomfortable with the entire episode of R.S. Lodha and Priyamvada Birla’s assets. I personally feel that a person cannot be a fiduciary as well as a beneficiary. As a beneficiary, Lodha should have put someone in the seat of fiduciary. On the contrary, he performed in both the roles. This has upset me a lot.”

Lodha & Co had been the auditor to Dhunseri Tea for more than 30 years. Dhanuka holds more than 50 per cent shares in Dhunseri and a shade below in South Asian Petrochem, which started commercial production in Haldia last September.

Dhanuka said a notice has been issued to Lodha. The notice issued by both companies of Dhanuka reads: “The company has received a special notice dated 24.8.2004 under Section 190 and 225 (1) of the Companies Act, 1956, from a member of the company proposing to appoint Lovelock & Lewes, chartered accountant, as statutory auditor of the company in place of the retiring auditor Lodha & Co at the annual general meeting on 16th September.”

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