August 2, 2013

Why Mukesh Ambani met Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

Ambani is known to have discussed key matters in a one-on-one interaction with Banerjee after the meet

West Bengal Chief Minister ’s meet with the who’s who of India Inc in Mumbai turned out to be a runaway hit, courtesy Reliance Industries’ .

According to a tweet by Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’ Brien, Ambani was believed to have said that the Chief Minister meant business, given that she was in Mumbai barely 48 hours after a big electoral victory. But it’s not just Banerjee who meant business.


After the India Inc meeting Ambani met the Chief Minister one-on-one at the guest house where she had put up. State government sources said, none of the other state ministers were present during the meeting.


“HPL and 4G were the key matters discussed. He (Ambani) was very keen on 4G but HPL too was important on his agenda,” industry minister, Partha Chatterjee said, but added that no one was allowed to inturrept the one-on one between Banerjee and Ambani.


On the 4G front, the company plans to lay optical fibre cables across 5,500 km. It would use 3,500 telecom towers to support its 4G services in the state. Work has already started on laying cables across 300 km, the company management had said during a recent conference in the state. The investment in the project was around Rs 3,000 crore.


However, Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL) could just higher on Ambani’s priority. HPL, eastern India's biggest petrochem company, has been on the radar of RIL for quite some time. RIL has submitted an expression of interest for the state government’s 40 per cent stake. The five other bidders are Anil Agarwal’s Cairn India, Essar, IOC, ONGC and GAIL.


The plant visit, as part of the due diligence process, started on Thursday wherein the bidders would visit the plant, which according to HPL's former MD Partha Bhattacharyya could boast of international quality products. 


While RIL has formally joined the race for HPL now, its interest is an open secret. In 2006, Ambani had come down to meet Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was the Chief Minister then. 

“Ambani said, I will come if you want me,” a senior Left leader said.


The state government was keen on selling its stake to Ambani, but an agreement with TCG’s Purnendu Chatterjee for the first rights of refusal, held it back. Ambani was asked to settle the matter with Purnendu Chatterjee directly, but it didn’t result in anything material.

This time too, the stake sale could get entangled in a legal battle. TCG has already filed an appeal in Supreme Court against a Calcutta High Court order. TCG wanted to move the international court of arbitration, against which the state government had moved the High Court.

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