Great Offshore gives few answers to shareholders

Great Offshore gives few answers to shareholders

Mumbai: Under the shadow of two companies vying for Great Offshore Ltd, shareholders of India’s largest integrated offshore services provider Great Offshore Ltd met on Thursday with questions on the takeover battle and open offers for the firm.

They got few answers from a management that’s been in place for just about a fortnight.

Shipbuilders Bharati Shipyard Ltd and ABG Shipyard Ltd are in a race to buy Great Offshore, originally promoted by Vijay K. Sheth. The firms have each sweetened their offers several times since May.

That was when Bharati Shipyard’s promoters acquired a 14.89% stake in Great Offshore at Rs315 a share after Sheth forfeited shares he had pledged with them.

The firm’s annual general meeting had no representatives from Bharati or the original promoters. Some shareholders called it a maha shanidasha (bad phase), for Great Offshore.

“We are missing (the) Sheth family. We believe they are in temporary vanvas (voluntary or forced exile) and the company is undergoing a maha shanidasha, said Mark Mascarenhas, a shareholder.

Keki M. Elavia, who took over as chairman of Great Offshore 15 days ago, presided over the meeting.

While many of the shareholders were worried, they noted Great Offshore’s stock price had gained from the open offer battle.

Bharati Shipyard upped its ante for Great Offshore on 16 September by picking up additional stake in it to now hold 22.48%. Its highest purchase was at Rs560 a share, making it the new level for its open offer as per Indian law. ABG raised its open offer price to Rs520 per share on 5 August. It now holds 8.29% in Great Offshore.

Shares of Great Offshore on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) slipped 1.17% to close at Rs556.00 on Thursday.

On 15 September, Great Offshore appointed Keki M. Elavia, Kaiwan Kalyaniwalla, Kaushal R. Sachar and Percy A. Doctor as its new directors.

“These directors have clarified in written statements prior to their appointments that they were in no way related or interested in any of the companies—ABG or Bharati," Rabindra Hazari, legal adviser to Great Offshore, said.

Elavia put all the resolutions on poll as the management was new and the open offers were still on.

“It is only prudent that you seek poll so that everything is in black and white. It will avoid unnecessary controversies since there is state of flux prevailing," said a shipping expert who didn’t want to be named.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Soli C. Engineer, executive director, Great Offshore, said his firm has finalized a strategy to enter the pipe-laying and rig repair businesses.

“The offshore vessels (ships supporting offshore activities such as exploration) supply and drilling segment are saturated as many firms are coming in. Therefore, our strategy is give thrust to business such as IMR (inspection, maintenance and repairs) of offshore construction and pipe-laying segments," Engineer said.

Big firms such as Reliance Industries Ltd, BG Group Plc and Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd have floated tenders for repairs and pipe-laying works.

“If Great Offshore enters the pipe-laying segment, this would be the first company with Indian registered vessels doing such business," the expert quoted earlier said.

Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd, Saipem SpA, National Petroleum Construction Co. and McDermott International Inc. are among international pipe-laying firms with a huge presence in India.