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Haldia Petro still in search of cash clue

Calcutta, July 30: Uncertainty continues to loom large on Bengal’s showpiece industrial project — Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd — with no resolution yet on reopening the plant.

Principal private promoter Purnendu Chatterjee today hinted that the plant was idle for lack of cash. “The management said the plant was in a very good condition,” Chatterjee said after attending the board meet of HPL.

Asked if the company had the working capital for operation, he said: “Lenders have to bring in money.”

HPL closed operations on July 6, citing a technical snag at its naphtha cracker unit. The glitch was located in the charge gas compressor, a critical component of the operation.

Since then there has not been any communication from the management on when the plant may restart.

Managing director U. K. Basu neither met the media today nor responded to the text messages sent to his mobile.

A representative from the lenders on the HPL board indicated they might not offer more cash unless the two existing promoters resolved the ownership issue. “Fresh infusion depends on inter-se transfer of shares among the promoters,” the official said.

The company is estimated to require around Rs 60-70 crore to restart the plant. If it wants to operate at full capacity, the requirement will be higher.

However, Chatterjee’s comment indicated that HPL might not have enough working capital to begin operations and the promoters were again looking at the lenders to bail them out.

Despite an in-principle decision taken by the Mamata Banerjee government to hand over control to The Chatterjee Group, the agreement is yet to be formalised.

A senior state functionary said on the condition of anonymity that there had been progress on several fronts and the plant would open in the “not too distant future”. He, however, did not mention a specific time frame.

“The plant has been going through general maintenance after the specific problem was sorted out. These take time. There has been considerable progress on the financial front,” the functionary said.

Industry sources said the absence of HPL from the polymer market had created a void in eastern India, which other players were rushing to fill in.

“HPL is in danger of losing customers if it does not come back to business soon,” they said.

 
 
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