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Tuesday, Jul 09, 2002

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Hindujas yet to hear from Haldia Petro stakeholders

Santanu Sanyal

LONDON, July 8

THE probable participation of the Hinduja Group in the ownership as well as running of the Rs 5,000-crore plus Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL) will depend on whether the present stakeholders of the West Bengal-based petrochemicals company will accept the terms set out by the group.

``It is nearly a month now, we have communicated to the West Bengal Government as well as the other partner, Mr Purnendu Chatterjee, our terms in this regard, but are yet to receive anything firm from them," said a spokesman for the group while talking to Business Line here recently.

The terms are incorporated in a draft MoU submitted by the group to the present stakeholders, it is learnt.

``We had talks with the Chief Minister himself and others and made our position clear, but any commitment from them is still awaited'', he said, stressing the need for an early decision as further delay could push the company further into the red. ``We understand it is a debt-ridden company'', he said.

The spokesman declined to give out the details of the terms the Hinduja group has set out for the probable takeover of HPL. He, however, made it clear that the group must first be convinced of the viability of the project.

Also, as he emphasised, the group would like to have full control over the sources of supply of the raw materials as well as the marketing of the finished products. "We have good contacts in the West Asia and, therefore, should be in a position to source the raw material at very competitive rates," he observed. ``We can even team up with world leaders in the field."

The marketing of the products, the spokesman felt, was crucial particularly in the present scenario when petrochemicals was no longer considered a sunrise industry. He declined to comment on the reported interest shown by Indian Oil Corporation in HPL.

The group, as the spokesman indicated, was by and large satisfied with the performance of its various ventures in India such as Ashok Leyland and its subsidiaries such as Ennore Foundries and AL Financial Services and IDL Chemicals.

Asked if the group had any new projects in mind for India, the spokesman replied, ``Not until the present stalemate over Bofors is resolved.

Nearly 16 years have passed and the stalemate still persists. The spokesman said that the investigation agencies had not yet been able to prove conclusively the alleged involvement of the Hindujas in the alleged irregularities in the gun deal. The Delhi High Court had dismissed the case, which, it was reported, wais being referred to the Supreme Court.

``We will also fight it out at the apex court'', the spokesman added.

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