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Hind Copper chief quits

Calcutta, April 1: Rana Som, chairman and managing director of Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL), has quit and joined State Trading Corporation as director (personnel).

Som's exit comes at a time when HCL's financials are improving and the company is planning to come out with a public issue.

Som, who had put in his papers a month back, was released on March 31. He had joined the company as executive director (personnel) in 2000. He became chairman and managing director on December 1, 2003.

The ministry has yet to zero in on a person to fill in for Som. For now, the Union ministry of mines has appointed Manabendu Samajpati, director (finance), as acting chairman and managing director.

The government had offered Som a slot at State Trading Corporation in 2003. But he waited for HCL, which was reeling under losses, to turn around. Som will now be moving to Delhi.

Reports suggest there were some differences between a section of the bureaucrats of the mines ministry and Som on HCL, which were later sorted out.

During Som's tenure, HCL posted a profit after a gap of almost seven-and-a-half years.

Hind Copper, whose accumulated loss stands at Rs 805 crore, is striving hard to retire its high-cost borrowings.

The company has sought a Rs 67-crore loan from Allahabad Bank at a coupon rate of 7 per cent to retire its debentures that carry an interest rate of 14 per cent. It wants to clean up its balance sheet as fast as it can.

Employees, however, fear that with Som's exit, the entire financial re-engineering process and the expansion plan of the company will slow down. The company started suffering losses from 1996-97. In 2002-03, the total accumulated loss stood at Rs 866 crore. The paid-up capital of HCL now stands at Rs 741 crore.

The company also plans to cut down the monthly interest payment from Rs 3.2 crore at present to Rs 2.5 crore in the near future.

Hind Copper has already exhausted the Rs 100-crore limit on letter of credit and the Rs 160-crore quota of cash credit. It had issued government bonds worth Rs 250 crore and non-government bonds and debentures aggregating Rs 85 crore.

Meanwhile, the Centre has stalled plans to shift the HCL headquarters to Delhi.

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