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Saturday, Dec 14, 2002

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Industry & Economy - Disinvestment

TotalFinaElf in race for HPCL

Archana Chaudhary

MUMBAI, Dec. 13

THE world's fifth largest oil company, TotalFinaElf, is "in the race'' for buying a stake in the State-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. A team of officials from the multinational's Paris headquarters will be here next month to review the Government's disinvestment proposal and finalise whether TotalFinaElf should bid or not, a senior company official told Business Line.

"Our senior official in charge of strategy and development and his team will be coming to India in the last week of January next to meet Indian policy-makers, civil servants and those related to the disinvestment process. After we know the process and route of disinvestment, a final view will be taken,'' Mr Nicholas J Wellman, Chairman and CEO, Total Petroleum India Pvt Ltd and Elf Lubricants India Ltd, said.

Mr Wellman, perhaps wiser after its experience with IBP disinvestment, however, stopped short of making a firm statement on whether TotalFina will bid for HPCL.

TotalFina's interest in the bidding process is significant considering it had pulled out its chief representative from India in March this year, citing slow pace of reforms and unfair investment conditions laid down by the Government.

The company had to abandon its planned LNG joint venture with the Tata Group and GAIL. Also, the Union Government's stake in IBP Ltd, for which the multinational had bid for aggressively, was sold to Indian Oil Corporation - another Government-owned company.

Although the company has still not recruited a Country Representative for India, TotalFinaElf has renewed its focus on the Indian lubricants market.

The company has introduced a new brand `elf moto 4 GOLD' for 4-stroke motor cycles with an investment of more than $ 2 million in advertising campaign alone.

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