The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Birlas to regroup in Pilani

Calcutta, Jan. 7: The Birlas have decided that one of the groups from the empire will control Pilani Investments, Basant Kumar Birla said in an interview to The Telegraph.

'Sometime in the future, I think one group will have to control Pilani by buying out shares from others. Only two individuals, Chandra Kant and Kumar Mangalam, can do it. They will have to agree on who will buy out whom,' said BK babu as he discussed the future of the family's businesses. He said the process has already started, but it would take some time before the plan turns into reality.

Pilani Investments is the entity through which the Birla family controls its sprawl of companies. Starting out as a closely-held firm and a vehicle of family founder G. D. Birla to pursue his passion for speculative deals in jute, cotton futures and shares, it was a stock-market darling until the Birlas mopped up much of its equity.

All the Birla groups own a slice of Pilani, which has strategic holding in several Birla flagships. The BK group holds 30 per cent, CK and MP firms 25 per cent each and SK and other members of the family 10 per cent; the remaining 10 per cent is in the hands of the public.

'We separated all our businesses long back. The exception was Century Textiles and Industries. However, we realise that we have to do it sometime,' said BK, whose firms straddle areas from textiles to cement.

With the Birla family holding around 36 per cent in Century Textiles and Industries through Pilani Investments, the investment outfit holds the key to control of the Rs 2500-crore company. Though Pilani has investments in various Birla companies, it is the holding in Century that is seen as the most important of them all.

Pilani Investments shot into prominence after Rajendra Singh Lodha produced a 1999 will purportedly drawn up by Priyamvada Birla to claim ownership of MP Birla firms. The Birlas are chafing at the prospect of a 'rank outsider' demanding a seat on the boards of their firms.

BK, however, feels Lodha's control of MP Birla group's 25 per cent stake in Pilani will not have a large impact on the way the family's other businesses are run at this point of time.

'It is only that we will not be able to pass some resolutions. The rest will remain the same.'

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