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IOC boss sets up Haldia date

Calcutta, April 18: Indian Oil chairman Sarthak Behuria will meet Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday to iron out wrinkles in issuing shares of Haldia Petrochemicals (HPL).

The state-owned oil major has not been allotted its share of shares even though it pumped Rs 150 crore into the petrochemicals company at the end of last year.

J. Prabh Das, joint secretary in the union petroleum ministry, and N. K. Nayyar, director of business development at IOC, will accompany Behuria to the talks. This is seen as an indication of the importance that the navaratna company ' and the Centre ' is giving to the issue.

The principal promoters of HPL, The Chatterjee Group (TCG) and the Bengal government, have been dilly-dallying on issuing shares to IOC for some time. Both have responded to questions about the delay by promising that the allotment will be made soon; none said when.

State commerce and industry department sources said the Bengal government is working on the share price of HPL. L.B. Jha & Co, the adviser to the Bengal government on HPL, is doing the sums to arrive at a figure.

Sources say Purnendu Chatterjee, chief of TCG, is insisting that he gets management control of the Rs 5,170-crore petrochem company.

The equity size of HPL is Rs 1410 crore. The Bengal government holds 56 per cent through West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), TCG has 41 per cent while the remaining 3 per cent is with the Tatas.

As Indian Oil steps up efforts to get its share of the pie, Purnendu, also in the city now, is trying to lure Haldia Petrochem into investing in Basell, a Dutch petrochem company that the TCG boss, along with ICICI Securities and a clutch of US investors, are bidding for.

Chatterjee has already made a formal proposal to the government on how Basell will help HPL grow in the coming years, but has not heard from the state so far.

A section of the Bengal government is keen to bring in IOC, impressed with the oil company's ambitious plan of turning Haldia into the petrochem hub of the east. The Fortune 500 firm has given the state a Rs 5,000-crore blueprint detailing how it will accomplish the goal.

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