The Mamata Banerjee government will complete the sale of its stake in Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd. within the stipulated time frame, Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee has said.

The government hopes to complete the technical bid part by the end of this month and the price bid part by October.

Leading the race for the proposed buyout are two public sector companies — Indian Oil Corporation and GAIL. At the other end of the spectrum are the country’s biggest private sector players Reliance Industries Ltd. and CAIRN Energy. Although a distant second, HPL is billed as the second-largest petrochemical company after RIL.

At Wednesday’s meeting of a group of ministers (set up for this purpose), the issue of allowing the two PSUs to pool their resources featured and, according to those present at the meeting, saw a divergence of opinion between two key ministers of Ms. Banerjee’s Cabinet.

While one felt that the two energy PSUs should be allowed to form a consortium in the larger interest of HPL, another Minister differed saying that this cannot be done once the process of tendering had started rolling.

Besides the Chief Minister, the ministers of industry, finance and panchayat are members of this core group.

While the State government has put on the block its 31 per cent holding, NRI entrepreneur Purnendu Chatterjee through The Chatterjee Group holds 41 per cent of the equity capital. He will have to be given the first right of refusal, once the price bids are received. IOC already holds 8.33 per cent of the equity, with banks and financial institutions also having a share.

The State government took the decision to sell its stake in the joint venture HPL, in a bid to save the company, which is running far below its capacity due to an acute funds crisis. The bankers’ consortium has declined to fund losses or pump in any additional money saying that the long pending dispute among the two main promoters needs to be resolved first and the promoters should put in additional equity.

With the fortunes of this technologically advanced company is linked the fate of thousands who have set up plastic downstream units when HPL came into being in 2001.

The accumulated losses of the project, which was very close to the former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, are estimated at around Rs. 2000 crore.