The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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King yesterday, loser today
- On top of world with Basell bid, Purnendu takes hard fall

Calcutta, July 29: Feted less than three months ago as the Indian wearing the takeover king’s crown, Purnendu Chatterjee today looks like a man who has suddenly lost his way.

Yesterday, the Bengal government withdrew its offer to sell its 36.87 per cent stake in Haldia Petrochemicals to the NRI businessman. With that, Chatterjee’s attempt to make the biggest acquisition abroad by an Indian is also as good as dead.

Earlier reports had suggested that Chatterjee would raise Rs 2,000-2,500 crore from banks and financial institutions to take part in the $5.7-billion purchase of Dutch company Basell Polyolefins by using the strength of Haldia. He was to partner Access Industries of the US to take over Basell.

On August 1, the financial aspect of the acquisition will be wrapped up. John Stonborough, spokesperson for Nell Acquisition S.a.r., the company formed to buy Basell, said: “Mr Chatterjee is not in the acquisition process of Basell. The financial closure of the deal is being carried out by Access Industries alone.”

It confirmed earlier reports that Chatterjee was out of Basell, though the possibility of him rejoining the group of buyers remained open so long as the Haldia deal was on the cards.

Chatterjee said: “I am not thinking about Basell right now. HPL is my only concern. I will make a fresh appeal to the Bengal government to allow us to acquire their stake.”

Until this afternoon, the government had not received a request to allow him more time to come up with the Rs 1,560 crore to buy the Haldia stake, commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen said.

He added that the government was not in any hurry to sell its stake. “HPL is doing very well. Our negotiations with TCG (The Chatterjee Group) have not been fruitful. Hence, we decided not to proceed further,” Sen said.

Explaining why the government was in no hurry, Sen said: “We had agreed (to sell) only because Chatterjee had made us the offer.”

Asked if the government would agree if Chatterjee made a similar offer again, he responded: “In future, if the question arises, we’ll think about it.”

It seems the government will now insist that the Rs 150-crore cheque the Indian Oil Corporation had issued to buy 7.5 per cent stake in Haldia be now encashed.

“There was a unanimous resolution by the HPL board on bringing in IOC. The government also wants IOC to join. We’ve asked HPL to encash the cheque provided by IOC and allow them entry,” Sen said.

Issued in February, the cheque’s validity expires on August 18.

Asked about the delay, Sen replied: “Their (Haldia’s) reluctance to encash the cheque shows that TCG is unwilling to allow IOC entry. According to company law, it is a compulsion on them to encash the cheque.”

He admitted that “the deadlock over the cheque continues”.

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