Fresh fight erupts at MP Birla Group over Vindhya Telelinks board nominees

Vindhya Telelinks, Punjab Produce & Trading Company, MP Birla Group, stock exchange, Promoters

Mumbai: The tussle between the Lodha and Birla camps to control entities belonging to the Kolkata-based MP Birla Group escalated yet again, with Punjab Produce & Trading Company sending a notice to

Vindhya Telelinks

proposing the appointment of two directors to the board.

In an addendum to the notice of the 38th Annual General Meeting to be held on September 23, the company disclosed to the stock exchange that one of its shareholders Punjab Produce & Trading has proposed the names of Dhanpat Ram Agarwal and Justice (Retd.) Shyamal Kanti Chakrabarti in place of Justice (Retd.) Dilip Ganesh Karnik to the board.

Promoters held a 53.91% stake in the company in which Punjab Produce holds a 10.90% stake.

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Vindhya Telelinks board has strongly recommended against the appointments of Agarwal and Justice Chakrabarti. The company, in an explanatory statement, said that Punjab Produce has ongoing litigations with the companies and entities belonging to MP Birla Group, and the induction of its nominee on the board could be detrimental to the interest of the company and stakeholders as there is a possibility of conflict of interest.

When contacted, a Vindhya Telelinks spokesperson said the board is confident that shareholders will decimate all malicious attempts to disrupt the company’s management and help uphold highest corporate governance standards. Mailed queries to Punjab Produce did not elicit any response until press time.

Many of the entities of the MP Birla Group are under the control of the Lodha family. Priyamvada Birla, the widow of MP Birla, had bequeathed her assets to chartered accountant RS Lodha. She died in 2004. Harsh Vardhan Lodha is the son of RS Lodha, who died in 2008.

The Birla family has challenged the will’s authenticity and argues that the group assets should go to charities as per the mutual will of MP Birla and his wife made in 1982.

Last year, the corporate affairs ministry approved the cessation of Harsh Vardhan Lodha’s directorship at five MP Birla Group investment companies — East India Investment, Gwalior Webbing, Baroda Agents & Trading Co, Punjab Produce & Trading Co, and Punjab Produce Holdings — based on the decision of their boards headed by a court-appointed former judge. The matter is still in court.

Recently, Yes Bank has proposed a resolution on appointing seven new board members to Dish TV India while Invesco sent a letter to Zee Entertainment to call an EGM for the removal of Punit Goenka, MD, and two independent directors from the board.

“Dish TV and others have shaken up shareholders in instances where there is a family and shareholder dispute,” said Amid Tandon, MD, IiAS. “The importance of having objectivity on the board is now apparent.”

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