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BPL steps out of race for SCI

Boby Kurian

BANGALORE, June 10

THE TPG Nambiar-promoted BPL Group has pulled out from the race for 51 per cent stake in Shipping Corporation of India (SCI). BPL, which conducted technical due diligence, did not place the financial bid.

BPL, which is in the midst of debt recasting discussions with ICICI Bank-led consortium, has decided not to pursue new strategic business initiatives for the time being. "We have withdrawn from the race for SCI stake,'' the company sources said. The financial due diligence of SCI by prospective buyers is slated to begin on June 18.

When contacted, the company's official spokesperson declined to comment. In recent weeks, speculation was gaining ground that BPL, through the new strategic business initiatives division, may diversify into unrelated areas under Mr Rajeev Chandrsekhar who successfully spearheaded the telecom foray in the late 90s.

Reliable sources said, BPL, which is restructuring its existing businesses, would focus on its core consumer durables business under the stewardship of Mr Ajit Nambiar. "Over the next few years, we will strengthen our three core areas which include colour televisions and audio systems, home appliances, and finally, components manufacturing,'' company sources said.

The BPL companies which are in for restructuring include the flagship, BPL Ltd which mainly deals in CTVs, BPL Sanyo Technologies Ltd entrusted with audio systems, BS Appliances Ltd, BS Refrigerators Ltd and BPL Soft Energy Ltd. It is likely that component manufacturing - currently catered to by the three entities - BPL Engineering Ltd, BPL Display Devices Ltd and Electronics Research Ltd, will undergo consolidation.

BPL's cellular business with subscriber bases in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala is controlled by the Nambiar family through investment companies outside the BPL Group. Company insiders said that BPL would maintain "arms length'' relationship with the cellular business, managed by Mr Chandrasekar, and which will soon be nestled in a merger with Idea, a joint venture of the A. V. Birla group, the Tatas and AT&T. BPL may also look at the option of charging royalty on cellular business for the use of the brand name.

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