Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, May 02, 2002
Bengal Chemicals may soon have foreign ally
KOLKATA, May 1
THE century old Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Ltd, set up by the well-known scientist and national leader Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, is likely to select its foreign collaborator within a month.
Mr Probir Roy, Managing Director of Bengal Chemicals, was hopeful that he would make a formal announcement by May-end. "By the middle of this week, I am going off and I am confident that it will be a successful trip'', Mr Roy told Business Line.
He declined to divulge any detail about the proposed partner. He did not even disclose where he was going. "It will be unfair on my part. I will request everyone to wait for a month'', he said.
Bengal Chemicals, a central public sector company, is the producer of the Phenol brand of phenyl. The company was nationalised in 1981. It also produces heavy chemicals such as sulphuric acid, alumina ferric and aluminium sulphate (non-ferric) and herbal drugs. It produces medicines such as snake venom anti-serum, amphicillin, amoxycillin, ibuprofen and antiseptics.
In the home products sector, apart from Phenol and Cantharadine hair oil, it owns brands such as White Tiger, a floor cleaner, Eau-de-Cologne and produces naphthalene balls too.
For quite some time the Centre has been looking for an international joint venture partner for Bengal Chemicals to expand its core activity and product basket. Earlier different reports appeared regarding this issue but nothing materialised in the end. The joint venture partner is expected to take up a comfortable stake in the company and help the company spruce up its operations. It would also help the company make maximum utilisation of its brand value both in pharma and home sectors.
Like the identity of the proposed partner, Mr Roy was also non-committal on the nature of the proposed joint venture. He only added that the company was open to all sorts of options and it only wished to increase its business.
Currently, the Centre has not identified Bengal Chemicals for disinvestment probably because there is an opportunity to arrange a suitable partner for it. The company was referred to the Board for Industrial & Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) in 1993. Two years later, a revival package was passed.
Meanwhile, the company has trimmed its workforce over the years. In 1995, it had a workforce of around 1,700. In the middle of 2000, it came down to 1,100. The revival package of the company prescribed a workforce of 850 approximately.
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