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Purnendu keeps HPL option open

Calcutta, Sept. 24: The Chatterjee Group (TCG) is weighing the possibility of partnering a bidder of Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd for the Bengal government’s stake in the company.

TCG chairman Purnendu Chatterjee hinted at the possibility today after the annual general meeting of HPL, weeks before the state calls the final price bid to sell its shares.

“We will do whatever is good for our shareholders,” Chatterjee said when asked about the possibility of teaming up with one of the four active bidders in the race for the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation’s (WBIDC) 48.29 per cent economic interest in HPL.

Two PSUs — Indian Oil Corporation and GAIL (India) Ltd — will vie for the HPL pie along with Reliance Industries and Cairn Energy.

Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee, who is also the chairman of HPL, said price bids would be called before the Durga Puja.

TCG has so far welcomed the government’s move to exit Haldia Petrochemicals but questioned the method of offloading the stake through bidding.

Not only had it staked claim on a crucial block of 15.5 crore equity shares of the WBIDC but also on another 52 crore WBIDC shares.

Today, for the first time TCG hinted at the possibility of participating in the stake sale process.

A state government source said TCG was in talks with RIL and ONGC for a possible tie-up. “He (Chatterjee) is in touch with both Mukesh Ambani (RIL chairman) and Sudhir Vasudeva (ONGC chairman),” the source added.

There have also been talks of TCG teaming up with Cairn India.

After showing initial interest, ONGC has developed cold feet after the Bengal government disallowed the formation of a consortium among selected bidders. ONGC was keen to partner IOC.

The TCG chairman also kept the door open on his right of first refusal on the government’s shares. According to the ongoing process, TCG will have a month to match the highest price discovered through bids and another month to stump up the price.

He also claimed that HPL’s net worth has turned negative by August 31 because of heavy losses but the state government sources denied it.

The board today extended HPL managing director Sumantra Banerjee’s term to October 30. TCG opposed the nomination of Jamshyd Godrej on the board but it was passed with majority.

The nomination of TCG member Shibashindu Chatterjee was defeated initially with requisite majority before minister Partha Chatterjee allowed him to stay on.

 
 
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