Harsh Lodha chairs Birla Corporation AGM

Written by fe Bureaus | Kolkata | Updated: Oct 28 2009, 06:35am hrs
The Birlas may have challenged a Company Law Board order on the Harsh Lodha case in the Calcutta High Court on Monday, but with the court being closed today they couldnt stop Birla Corporation from hosting its 89 th AGM on Tuesday with Harsh Vardhan Lodha in the chair.

Last week the board of directors had approved Lodhas appointment as chairman of the MP Birla Group company. At the AGM, which went off smoothly without any drama, the appointment of three directors, Pracheta Majumdar, Vikram Swarup and B B Tandon, was put to vote and got approval of a majority of shareholders.

The AGM was originally scheduled on July 27 this year, but had to be adjourned after a section of shareholders challenged the appointment of Lodha as AGM chairman.

A petition was filed with the CLB by Jodhraj Laddha, Arun Kumar Jhunjhunwala, Kanupriya Bagrodia, Sunita Parasramka, S Chatterjee and Rameshwar Jute Mills challenging Lodhas appointment.

Dismissing the petition, the CLB order said the plea was motivated for the ulterior purpose of ousting Lodhas from the management and not for protecting the interests of the company.

It also said that the petitioners were more concerned about the interests of Birlas than the affairs of the company. The petition did not even disclose a single act of oppression and mismanagement, it said.

A week after the order, the AGM on Tuesday went off peacefully amid four layer security. Unlike the last AGM session where a large number of shareholders were unruly, only a few shareholders tried to disrupt proceedings but listened when Lodha read out the chairmans speech.

Later, talking to reporters, Lodha said the company is planning for an overseas acquisition of a cement plant. While he did not mention any size of the possible acquisition, he said it would be in the emerging markets.

"We are examining few projects overseas in the emerging countries. With our cash flow comfortable, we are looking to take over some cement companies overseas," Lodha said.

The company, which made it to Forbes Best Under A Billion list, is also planning to invest Rs 2,350 crore in next four years. It is also planning a 1 million tonne cement plant in north Kachhar area of Assam with an estimated investment of Rs 500 crore. The company has been shortlisted by the government of Assam for the project, Lodha informed.

It is also expanding cement manufacturing facility in Satna, Madhya Pradesh with an estimated investment of Rs 1,150 crore. Of that Rs 650 crore will be raised as debt while rest will come from internal accruals, Lodha said. The company is in talks with banks and financial institutions regarding that.

Birla Corporation is also planning a brownfield plant in Chanderia of Rajasthan. Our capacity will touch 11.5 mn tonne after expansions in the pipeline, Lodha said.

The company earns 93% of its revenue from cement business. Earlier, during the AGM, Lodha said the companys strength in cement business lies in the eastern, central and northern parts of the country. We will continue to focus on those areas, he said.

Birla Corporation is also looking at bringing Soorah Jute Mill entirely under the companys fold and shift the entire operation to its facility at Birlapur. We have offered all 1,000 employees at Soorah mill to shift there, he said. Capacity of the Birlapur facility, presently at 110 tonne per day, will increase to 150 tonne per day after that. jute division of the company made profit in the last quarter after making losses for 15 years.