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|September 23, 1997||
Maruti AGM ratifies Bhaskarudu's appointment
Ravela Sri Satya Laxmi Narasimha Bhaskarudu's appointment as Maruti Udyog Limited's managing director was ratified at a marathon annual general meeting on Monday night, overruling Suzuki Motor Corporation's objections.
The Japanese partner withdrew R C Bhargava's nomination for the chairman's post, leaving both the top posts in the company to the government.
Earlier in the day, the Delhi high court, disposing of Suzuki's petition, gave a green signal to the MUL for holding the AGM to ratify the managing director's appointment.
However, Bhaskarudu's appointment is subject to the International Council for Arbitration's final decision, where the Japanese have opted for the ''fast track'' procedure and are expecting a ruling within two months.
Talking to the media after the meeting, Bhaskarudu said he had received no indications from Suzuki that it would opt out of the Rs 80 billion venture, controlling a lion's share of the Indian passenger car market.
He regretted that he was described as incompetent to hold the coveted post. ''It is unjustified and unfounded to be called incompetent. I am sure of managing the company as I am not new to it.''
Heavy Industry Secretary Prabir Sengupta, who is also MUL chairman, had to exercise his casting vote in Bhaskarudu's favour since both the partners, holding equal equity stake, were deadlocked over the issue. Sengupta had to use his casting vote for passage of annual financial results as well since the Japanese partner had raised objections even in this regard.
The stormy AGM, which started at 1500 hrs at the Maruti's headquarters, lasted over seven hours.
Sengupta will continue as MUL chairman. He said both chairman and managing director could legally be from the same partner -- the government of India in this case.
Without elaborating, he said several other issues were taken up at the meeting. ''It is hoped that all issues will be resolved quickly. Both the partners will hold out-of-court meetings.'' However, no date has been fixed for the next meeting.
Asked about the arbitration proceedings filed by Suzuki against Bhaskarudu's appointment, he said, ''I have not received anything. Neither have I seen any papers.''
Despite the setback, the Suzuki Motor Corporation will not opt out of India.
A senior Suzuki official said that the SMC was fully committed to India and there was no question of it pulling out of the venture.
The SMC official further stated the Japanese company has allowed the government to appoint double the number of functional directors on the board. ''This just shows our trust in the government.''
According to SMC sources, the company may not move the Supreme Court against the Delhi high court. The SMC is happy that Bhaskarudu's appointment is subject to the International Arbitration Council's proceedings.
The new constitution of MUL's board is as follows: Chairman - Prabir sengupta, managing director -- Bhaskarudu, full-time directors from Suzuki side -- T Kubayashi and K Senga, director (finance) -- A R Halasyam (from government). The part-time directors are -- O Suzuki, Y Saito, A V Singh and Anup Mukerjee.
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