Pakistan Steel opposes gas utility's bid to grab its land at 'low rate'.

ISLAMABAD -- The PakisAtan Steel Mills (PSM) has opposed a bid by the Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd to take over its 1,400 acres for Rs43 billion, a valuation the mill's management has described as 'one-sided'.

The takeover bid has been made against the mill's outstanding liabilities that the gas company's management has worked out at Rs48bn as of Dec 31, 2022.

Informed sources told Dawn that the SSGCL had asked the management of the PSM - the country's largest distressed and industrial enterprise that has remained closed for some eight years - for a final meeting to settle the matter.

The PSM's caretaker management, however, belieAves that not only the land evaluation price offeAred by the gas company is one-sided and precariously low, but also the working for liabilities is unfair and strings attached to the offer are unacceptable.

But the SSGCL and its board have argued that they want to protect the interests of the company and its shareholders. As a precaution, the gas company has set a series of arrangements and conditions for the PSM to complete and has blocked the issuance of a no-objection certificate (NOC) against the mill's factory area (spanned over 1,230 acres) and machinery required for privatising the mill.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had a standing order that selling any of PSM's assets and properties cannot be allowed against the settlement of liabilities because the steel mill belonged to the public.

More strangely, the Council of Common Interests has not yet approved any fresh proposal for privatising the mill or selling its properties. The Sindh government has also not yet consented to dispose of the PSM land and has repeatedly put on record that spare land not in the use of the mill had to return to the provincial government anytime its other utilisation comes up.

The SSGCL wrote to the steel mill a few days ago that its board had endorsed the commitment 'to facilitate the privatisation of PSM and in principle agreed to issue NOC to PSM for 1,229 acres of land, plant and machinery subject to conditions'.

Both companies earlier jointly appointed a third-party land price...

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