The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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HPL gets Basell go-ahead

Calcutta, May 13: A special cell of lenders led by the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) today cleared Haldia Petrochemicals’ (HPL) investment in Basell Polyolefins.

The green signal from the corporate debt restructuring (CDR) panel came after a series of discussions with Purnendu Chatterjee of The Chatterjee Group ' one of the principal promoters of HPL.

A TCG-led consortium last week won the race for Basell. Chatterjee, who will have to stump up $5.7 billion for the Dutch petrochem giant, has been in Mumbai for days to hold talks with banks and financial institutions (FIs) which could help him arrange cash for the deal.

The TCG chief wants HPL to bring in Rs 1500-2000 crore, an investment that would make the Bengal petrochem firm a minority shareholder in Basell. Chatterjee now needs approval from the Bengal government, which owns as much of HPL, for the infusion. Chatterjee is also in talks to buy out the Bengal government in Haldia Petrochem. If he does, he will get control of the firm, whose cash he will be free to plough into Basell.

HPL has become one of the few companies to have emerged from the corporate restructuring cell, which deals with firms whose messy finances need a clean-up. The company turned in a profit of Rs 575 crore in 2004-05 and fulfilled all conditions set by the debt-recast panel.

HPL had an equity of Rs 1,153 crore before it went to the special lenders’ group. Now, the figure is Rs 1,410 crore. TCG and associates have pumped Rs 150 crore into HPL, as required under the debt revamp plan. The company repaid debts of Rs 468 crore on July 31, 2004. Banks and FIs have also converted debts of Rs 107 crore into equity.

Indian Oil entry

The HPL board will have to take a decision on the entry of Indian Oil Corporation as an equity partner, said petroleum and natural gas minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who helped persuade the oil major to make the investment.

Emerging from an hour-long meeting with Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee here today, Aiyar said IOC has paid Rs 150 crore for a 7.5 per cent stake. The cheque, issued on February 18, has not been cashed yet.

“Our offer has been made already. It now depends on what action the HPL board takes,” he added. IOC has written to HPL asking for the shares but these have not been issued since The Chatterjee Group is in talks to buy out the Bengal government in the petrochemical firm.

Asked to comment on the acquisition of Basell by a TCG-led consortium, the minister did not say anything beyond the fact that he “read about it in newspapers”.

Oil price hike

Asked whether an oil price hike was imminent, Aiyar said his ministry had completed the groundwork on the issue. “I have discussed the issue with the Left parties. I have also spoken to Laloo Yadav, Ramvilas Paswan and even Dayanidhi Maran. However, this is a major decision and cannot be taken by a single ministry alone. We are waiting for a cabinet meeting on this to arrive at a decision,” the petroleum minister said.

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