The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Purnendu sends Haldia truce call

Calcutta, Aug. 23: Purnendu Chatterjee is ready to make a peace overture to the Bengal government to settle out of court their spat over Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL).

Purnendu, who had approached the company law board (CLB) to resist the government’s decision to issue a 7.5 per stake to Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), told The Telegraph: “I am very disappointed with the turn of events. I have been pushed to move the CLB. I want to settle the matter amicably with the state government.”

The non-resident Indian investor fell out with the state government after it refused to allow him to leverage the assets of Haldia Petrochemicals to stump up the cash to finance his end of the $5.7-billion buyout of Basell Polyolefins ' a Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary ' along with a gaggle of Russian and US investors.

He had planned to pledge the shares of HPL and raise Rs 2,500 crore that would be put up to finance the Basell buyout.

He accused the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government of scuppering his chances of acquiring Basell ' which would have been the largest global acquisition in which an Indian was involved. The state government hardened its stand in response and sold the small HPL stake to IOC.

Purnendu said there had been no talks with the state government since he filed the case before the CLB. Chatterjee had wanted to buy the Bengal government’s 36.87 per cent in HPL. He was asked by the government to pay Rs 29 per share. The government also set a July 31 deadline for the NRI promoter to pay up Rs 1,560 crore for the stake.

However, on July 28, the government took the decision not to sell its stake to Purnendu.

Simultaneously, the government encashed the Rs 150 crore cheque that IOC had deposited with HPL on February 18.

There is apprehension in corporate circles that Purnendu, who is the original investor in HPL, may sell his shares and get out of the company. The NRI entrepreneur rubbished the rumours.

“I came to do business in Bengal. I do not want to fight with the government. That is not my goal. I want to invest in HPL to make it a much bigger company. I do not want to get out of HPL. I could have done that earlier if I had wanted to,” he said.

The total equity size of HPL is Rs 1,410 crore. Out of this, the Bengal government holds 36.87 per cent (Rs 520 crore), The Chatterjee Petrochem Mauritius 30.7 per cent (Rs 433 crore), The Chatterjee Petrochem India 10.99 per cent (Rs 155 crore), and the Tatas 3.19 per cent (Rs 45 crore).

The remaining 18.22 per cent (Rs 257 crore) is held by friends and associates of TCG. Purnendu has already left the Basell dream behind. “My main concern now is HPL. I am not thinking about Basell at all,” he added.

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