HPCL Goes Nalco Way; Staff Deny Entry To RIL Brass

Mumbai, Aug 29: | Updated: Aug 30 2003, 05:30am hrs
Even as the disinvestment ministry fights a fierce battle over the sale of Nalco, another PSU Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) has landed them in a similar quandary. HPCL employees affiliated to the All India Petroleum Workers Union, Mumbai, prevented Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) executives from entering the PSUs refinery at Mahul near Mumbai on Friday morning. RIL officials had come for carrying out a due diligence of the refinery.

Reliance officials accompanied by the disinvestment staff were unsuccessful in getting across the refinery gate the entire day. Sources said about 12 officials arrived at the refinery at 10.45 this morning but were prevented entry by the 500 and odd union members who were stationed at the gates of the refinery since morning.

However, the union relented in the evening and the officials were taken around the refinery though no HPCL books were scrutinised, said sources.

A senior HPCL official admitted that the union prevented RIL from surveying the refinery. However, the issue has been sorted out, he said without divulging more details.

An RIL spokesperson, when contacted, declined to comment on the issue.

RIL began due diligence of HPCL assets on Thursday, and have one more day, i.e. Saturday to carry out the exercise. On the first day, RIL visited HPCLs data room set up at Delhi but faced opposition from the union. However, a couple of RIL officials were believed to have been successful in getting across to the data room, though this could not be confirmed.

At Mumbai today, the union decided to oppose RIL till September 1, when the Supreme Court hears the petition filed by the ministry of petroleum, challenging the governments decision to privatise HPCL without taking the Parliaments approval. The ministry of petroleum has challenged the governments decision to dilute its 34.01 per cent stake in the oil company to a strategic investor, saying this can be done only after getting the Parliamentary approval, as it was nationalised through an Act of Parliament.

The All India Petroleum Workers Union, Mumbai general secretary Prafull Mhatre claimed that RIL officials have agreed to defer their due diligence till September 2. Mr Mhatre added that the union, RIL officials and HPCL executives would meet on September 2 to decide on the future course of action. By then, the Supreme Court would have also given its verdict on the petition filed by the ministry of petroleum.

RIL, however, managed to visit HPCLs assets in the north and south India. Though it faced some resistance at the Mathura depot for about four hours, the police was called and the officials were allowed in. At the furnance oil depot in south India, RIL did not face any resistance.

As per the current schedule drawn by lead manager HSBC, the bidders visit to HPCLs data room and refineries is to be completed by October 4. As for marketing terminals, the last date for all visits by bidders is mid-October.

Each bidder will be given 12 days for due diligence and the entire process is to get over by mid-October after which price bids will be called.

The other bidders for acquiring the governments stake are BP Chevron Texaco, Essar Oil, ExxonMobil, Kuwait Petroleum, Petronas of Malyasia and Shell-Saudi Aramco.