Even as the stake sale of Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL) gets delayed, the company’s chief financial officer (CFO) has resigned and is moving to a consultancy company. D S Chakraborty, former CFO at HPL, was asked to join the management after his contract ended in June. This was primarily done by the West Bengal government to keep the stake sale process intact.
“I have not opted for a renewal in my contract with HPL, which ended two days back,” said Chakraborty.
What is of greater concern is that eastern India’s biggest petrochemical company would be headless once again when Managing Director Sumantra Chowdhury’s extended contract with HPL terminates on September 30. “The fear of the company once again being headless, especially amid the stake sale that is already delayed, looms large,” said an official.
Chowdhury was re-appointed by the HPL management, as the West Bengal government, which is selling its 40 per cent stake in the company, wanted the top management to be intact till the time the highest bidder was selected. The state government holds its stake in HPL via the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. The state government had initially decided not to extend his term, as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was not happy with his performance. However, after the government decided to invite expressions of interest for the stake sale, which got a good response from private sector biggies and public sector giants, HPL Chairman Partha Chatterjee wanted to keep the existing management intact.
Chowdhury, former additional chief secretary, was brought in last year after a boardroom coup of sorts that led to the resignation of then Managing Director Partha Bhattacharyya, who was earlier chairman of Coal India. However, the government’s plan to select the highest bidder by September-end looks almost impossible as five bidders in the race have raised concerns over the share-purchase agreement. A meeting was scheduled to happen in this regard but that, too, has been getting delayed.
One of the biggest concerns raised by bidders is on issue of liability. The state government has kept its liability capped till March 31 this year. But the bidders want the government to take HPL’s liability till the day the agreement is signed. Only after the issues are sorted would bidders be able to give final price bids.