The tussle between eastern India’s largest petrochemical company, Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL), and the West Bengal government escalated today.
The Calcutta High Court directed the company’s board to maintain status quo till Wednesday on any proposal for transfer of shares after The Chatterjee Group (TCG) moved the court. Meanwhile, the board meeting saw its Managing Director Partha Bhattacharyya resign from the post, paving way for the government nominee, Sumantra Chowdhury.
Winstar India Investment — promoted by one of the major shareholders of HPL, TCG — moved the high court requesting a stay in transfer of shares, as was anticipated to be part of the agenda for the board meeting today. ONGC subsidiary Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) are understood to be interested in acquiring the shares of the company. The court directed that a status quo should be maintained till Wednesday, when it is expected to pass an interim order.
MRPL Managing Director U K Basu had confirmed last week the company was in talks with HPL and had sought the state government’s permission to conduct the due-diligence. Along with IOC and MRPL, the other companies interested in the Kolkata-based firm are Reliance Industries and GAIL.
Later in the day, the board meeting took a dramatic turn, when Bhattacharyya resigned and the state government lost no time in placing Chowdhury, former transport secretary of West Bengal. The Calcutta State Transport Corporation chief had also headed HIDCO. Bhattacharyya, the former Coal India chairman, had joined the company 13 months back after a successful stint with the PSU.
“Since the company is going through a turnaround time, we cannot work without a managing director, so we came up with an immediate replacement. Our focus is on financial revival,” said Partha Chatterjee, the company chairman and the state industries minister.