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Mumbai, March 8

HOLCIM'S open offer for ACC shares will not start on Wednesday as scheduled, because the Swiss major is still awaiting approval from the Securities and Exchange Board of India, not to mention the green signal from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

Since it is not known when SEBI will grant its approval, it is not known when the offer will start either. But a senior official with DSP Merrill Lynch, advisors to Holcim for the deal, said he did not expect a delay of more than three-four days. "We are not worried," he said.

Another official close to the deal said, "The delay probably has to do with the internal working of SEBI. "We assume that since it is a large issue, SEBI would want to go through every word of the offer document."

The open offer for 38.84 per cent of the equity capital of ACC at Rs 370 a share will amount to almost Rs 2,500 crore.

The official admitted that the CCEA has not given its approval to the deal as well. This, he said, was probably due to the fact that the Ministers on the committee were too busy with the recent elections to meet on the issue. In any case, he said, the CCEA permission was a formality, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board having already granted permission for the open offer.

The Switzerland-based Holcim Group and Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd, in January, announced that Holcim would acquire 67 per cent of the equity capital of Ambuja Cements India Ltd. And that through ACIL, Holcim would make an open offer for shares of ACC to bring up ACIL's stake in ACC from 13.8 per cent to over 50 per cent.

The specified date for the open offer was originally January 28.

Holcim would make a public announcement on Wednesday on the postponement of its open offer, the officials said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 9, 2005)
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