THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Union Finance Minister is adamant to carry out the ‘strategic disinvestment’ of Hindustan Newsprints Ltd (HNL) and HLL Lifecare Ltd, despite the state government’s and trade unions’ strong opposition against the proposal.
In a reply to a submission in Lok Sabha on Friday, Minister of State for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan said the process was on for not only identifying a strategic buyer for the HPCL but also for carrying out the disinvestment of HLL.
“The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given an ‘in principle’ approval for the strategic disinvestment of HNL and HLL. As per the plan, a strategic buyer will be identified through a two-stage auction process. In the case of HLL, the strategic disinvestment will be carried out through a two-stage auction process,” said Radhakrishnan. In the case of HLL, the disinvestment will only be carried out after hiving off the Vaccine Venture and Medipark into separate SPVs.
Following the affirmation, trade unions are gearing up to intensify their protests. “As part of carrying out disinvestment in HNL, the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) had invited three expression of interests (EoI). But there were no respondents. We suspect the department might bring in slight changes to the criteria so as to ensure participation,” said an HNL employee union member.
Meanwhile, state industries department sources said the government is taking all possible steps to take over HNL and had also submitted several requests with the Centre. “The Chief Minister and the Industries Minister have written to the Centre several times to discontinue the disinvestment programme. But our efforts have fallen in deaf ears. Then the idea of taking over the public sector unit was mooted. But the Centre responded that we should participate in the bidding process,” sources said.
It is learnt that in his letter to the Centre, Industries Minister A C Moideen had highlighted that DIPAM’s disinvestment moves will be a breach of the agreement between the Centre and the State.
“It was the state government that identified the land for the HNL and handed over the same to the Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd. As per the agreement between HPCL and Kottayam District Collector, further handover of the property needs the accordance of the state government.
“Thus the government’s stance is that the Centre should provide the opportunity of a mutual negotiation,” said a trade union representative.
In the case of HLL, the disinvestment process is slowly picking up pace. DIPAM, which had appointed a transaction advisor and legal advisor for the disinvestment, is now in the process of appointing an asset valuer.