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Tatas may stay with Haldia Petro

Our Bureau

KOLKATA, Sept. 28

THE Tatas are likely to continue their association with Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL), a venture from which they had wanted to exit.

Information gathered from sources within the industry as well as the company indicated that the efforts of the State Government and the HPL Chairman, Mr Tarun Das, in this direction have borne fruit.

Mr Ratan Tata, who had resigned from the HPL board along with another Tata representative will continue. Last week, Mr Tata had held a closed-door session with Mr Das and the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The Tatas, who have a 14 per cent stake in the equity of this three-way joint venture, will also continue to have some shareholding although it is likely to be reduced somewhat. Though things were yet to be formalised in this respect, indications are that the stake would be transferred to the group holding entity - - Tata Sons. At present the stake is held by Tata Engineering and Tata Power which have nothing to do with petrochemicals, the sources said, adding that possibly, a special purpose vehicle would be created for the purpose.

While briefing newspersons after the 100th board meeting of HPL, Mr Das said: "Tatas have been urged to continue." He declined to give any details in this regard. Mr Das, however, confirmed that the board today had accepted the resignation of Mr Ratan Tata and Mr Syamal Gupta from the board, adding that Mr Ratan Tata would rejoin the board in case he agreed to stay back. He said Mr Naresh Chandra attended today's meeting and Mr Jamshyd Godrej was also slated to join the board. Pointing out that efforts were being made to position HPL as an all-India company, he said that talks were on to bring in someone from the South to join HPL as an independent director.

He stated that there had been a big turnaround in HPL's performance and the next two quarters were expected to be good for the company which had earnings of Rs 34 crore before depreciation, interest and taxes in the second quarter of this fiscal.

Mr Das said that with HPL's finances starting to look up the company was now poised for an IPO. However this was linked with the revival of the capital market.

Mr D. Chatterjee, who is an advisor to HPL on the financial restructuring exercise, told newspersons that the restructuring package was effective from October 1, but contingent upon the ability of HPL to bring in Rs 500 crore by way of equity and quasi-equity by November.

Mr Das remarked that HPL was confident on bringing in the required amount by October-end through its proposed tie-up with GAIL.

As for the remaining Rs 200 crore, Mr Chatterjee said talks were on with various Indian and overseas companies in this regard. He said the interest rate restructuring, plus the moratorium agreed upon by the FIs (till April 2005) would give the company a big relief helping it to lower its debt burden from Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 3,100 crore.

After the recast, HPL would have an equity of Rs 2,353 crore. However, the stake of the State Government and Mr Purnendu Chatterjee would be reduced from 43 per cent each now to 34 per cent.

Once this recast got under way, HPL, which made a cash loss of Rs 200 crore and a net loss of Rs 501 crore in 2001-02, was expected to get on to the revival path, said the sources.

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