The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Komal looking for right price

Mumbai, March 20: Shaw Wallace & Company's Komal Chhabria Wazir has agreed in principle to sell the family's controlling stake in the flagship spirits and breweries firm.

'She is willing to sell, provided the price is right. She will not like to sell for the sake of selling,' said sources close to Wazir.

Earlier, the 33-year old second daughter of Manu Chhabria was dogged in her efforts to try and rustle up funds to make a bid for Shaw Wallace that would be seen as equitable to her sisters and mother.

Manu Chhabria's estate heirs comprise his wife Vidya Chhabria and three daughters. Vidya Chhabria is the chairperson of the Jumbo group and also Shaw Wallace & Company.

Wazir is clear that the buyer should quote a handsome premium and include the liabilities of the company.

Shaw Wallace has contingent liabilities valued at more than Rs 400 crore as income tax dues that are under litigation.

In addition to this, the company has recently settled dues from creditors worth Rs 57 crore, which the prospective new owners may have to settle from their account.

'There is an impression that Wazir is against selling the family's stake to the UB group's Vijay Mallya. We would like to correct that notion,' the source said.

The impression was widespread mainly due to the curt response made by Shaw Wallace immediately after Mallya announced an open offer to acquire 20 per cent of the company's stake from the public. Shaw Wallace then had termed the offer as 'unsolicited'.

Mallya had also said he would talk only to Vidya Chhabria, the chairperson of the company.

The turnaround thus will be viewed as a major shot in the arm for the UB group's bid for Shaw Wallace.

Mallya, who has made trips to Dubai with his entourage of investment bankers, has been in talks with Vidya Chhabria and McKinsey & Co, the strategic advisers to the Dubai-headquartered group.

All the discussions are taking place in Dubai and Singapore, sources close to the deal said. So far, it has only been talks and the contours of the deal are yet to be worked out, they added.

According to sources, Mallya may up his bid to include the liabilities or even exclude the breweries business from the proposed deal. Mallya may also consider withdrawing the open offer if the deal zeroes in on only the spirits business.

If Mallya acquires the Shaw Wallace spirits business, it will make his UB group the third biggest spirits company in the world after Pernard Ricard and Diageo and the group will have close to 60 per cent of the domestic market share in the spirits segment.

Mallya has already gone on record saying he had bid Rs 1,251 crore for Shaw Wallace and was the highest bidder when the management had invited bids, but had to come out with an open offer because the Chhabrias were taking too long to decide on the fate of the bids.

Mallya's offer is already substantially higher than the Rs 970 crore total sale achieved by the liquor business of Shaw Wallace last year.

Recently, Mallya had reached an agreement with Kishore Chhabria, Manu's estranged brother, for purchase of his stake in another liquor company, Herbertsons Ltd.

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