PVR-INOX merger should get done by Feb next year: Director Siddharth Jain

Business Standard, December 29, 2022

The merger of the country’s largest and second-largest multiplex chains, PVR and Inox, is on track to be completed by the end of the current financial year, Siddharth Jain, director of the Inox group, said in a conversation with Viveat Susan Pinto. He spells out his role in the merged entity, and his vision for the group, which also produces industrial and medical gases, and cryogenic equipment under two separate companies. Edited Excerpts:

How is the merger process going? What will be your role in the merged entity?

The process is going well. It is in its final stages. We have received all the approvals from stock exchanges and from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). We got shareholder and creditor approvals in October. The final National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) hearing with regard to the proposed merger will happen in January. We hope that the proposed merger should get done by February.

As far as my role is concerned, I will be a non-executive director on the board. While my father (Pavan Kumar Jain) will be the chairman. Ajay Bijli will be the managing director and his brother Sanjeev Bijli will be an executive director.

With CUTS approaching the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) against the proposed merger, do you see the merger process getting delayed?

CUTS first approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against the proposed merger a few months ago. The plea was dismissed by the latter. They have now approached NCLAT against the CCI’s order. NCLAT will hear CUT’s application on February 9. Let’s see what happens.

The point about consolidation and appreciable adverse effects on competition due to the merger is a concern in a few quarters. How do you respond to this?

Consolidation in the domestic film exhibition business has been going on for a while now. However, if you look at the market, in the past ten years, you’ve had new cinema chains stepping into the fray. We would love to have more players entering the market because that is how the business will grow.

Inox Air Products is a leading producer and supplier of industrial and medical gases in India. During the second Covid wave, you were amongst the key suppliers of medical oxygen to hospitals. How do you see the situation unfolding in India with this new variant spreading fast in China and other parts of the world?

The government is on high alert and monitoring the situation carefully. So far, the requirement for medical oxygen similar to the second wave has not emerged. But we remain vigilant.

Where do you see Inox Air Products five years from now?

We started the business in 1963. Back then, we did not have a tie-up with the US-based Air Products. The joint venture with Air Products happened in 1999. It has been 24 years since the JV was established. It is also amongst the longest-running Indo-American joint ventures in India. At this stage, we have a top-line of Rs 2,500 crore. Five years from now, we hope to double this turnover.

Producing and supplying industrial and medical gases is a capital-intensive business. What is the capex you have lined up for next year?

In 2021, we had earmarked a capex of Rs 2,000 crore for the business. We have finished round one of this capex and should conclude the second round in the next few months. Meanwhile, we are already looking at a new round of capex of Rs 1,000 crore. All of this will be utilised to grow the business. We have factories in 17 states and supply gases to some of the top companies in sectors like steel, pharmaceuticals and other manufacturing industries.

InoxCVA is the country’s largest maker of cryogenic equipment for oil and gas, and other sectors. With an IPO in the works, what is the plan for this company?

The transition to clean energy is a big area of focus. Companies that want to make that transition will need cryogenic equipment. We are working towards clean energy initiatives in LNG, liquid hydrogen and fusion energy. The proposed IPO should help us, as we are looking to set up a new plant in Gujarat and expand further into markets such as the US and Europe.

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