Stocks valued at more than Rs 500 crore of Wipro Ltd, one of the country’s top software services firm, could be in for a custody battle. Originally bought by a person who migrated to Pakistan during Partition, these shares are now held by the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, a government department that preserves and manages movable and immovable property of people who took up Pakistani citizenship.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has now received a request for the release of these shares. Amjad Meher Baksh, an accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case who was later discharged by Supreme Court, has made the request, according to top officials familiar with the development. Baksh confirmed that he has sent a communication to the MHA.
These shares originally belonged to Abdul Cochinwalla, who took up Pakistani citizenship. His movable and immovable properties in India were subsequently vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property under the Enemy Property Act, 1968. Baksh is the third muttawalli — manager or superintendent of property — of these Wipro shares and holds a general power of attorney (GPA) for the shares since Cochinwalla’s family is now based in Europe, sources said.
The problem gets knottier still, as it comes days after the Government notified an ordinance on enemy property. On January 7, President Pranab Mukherjee promulgated the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2016 to amend the Enemy Property Act, 1968. Among others, the amendments say ownership rights of enemy property will be held by the Custodian’s office till it is legally disposed of. The ordinance also bars succession of such property.
Officials said the MHA is yet to decide on Baksh’s application. Baksh told The Indian Express that the office of the Custodian of Enemy Property has declined his Right to Information (RTI) application seeking the value of Wipro shares held by Cochinwalla.
At current value, the Custodian of Enemy Property owns share certificates worth Rs 2,600 crore of blue chip companies such as Wipro, ACC Ltd, Tata Steel, Tata Power, India Cements and Grasim Industries, among others, officials said.It has recently begun the dematerialisation of these shares and has appointed IL&FS Securities Services Ltd to convert them to electronic or paperless shares. Sources said at least 20 per cent of the physical shares
It has recently begun the dematerialisation of these shares and has appointed IL&FS Securities Services Ltd to convert them to electronic or paperless shares. Sources said at least 20 per cent of the physical shares have been dematerialised so far.
“Of the total holdings of Rs 2,600 crore of shares, Wipro forms a sizeable chunk. Just the dividend received on Wipro shares is around Rs 2 crore a year,” said an official who did not want to be named. The official declined to provide details on the precise holdings of Cochinwalla.
Wipro was incorporated in December 1945 as Western India Vegetable Products Limited and had its initial public offering (IPO) in 1946.Between 1971 and 2010, the company offered bonus shares to its shareholder 11 times. During the
Between 1971 and 2010, the company offered bonus shares to its shareholder 11 times. During the period Wipro has gone for a stock split twice, according to its website. The company has been paying dividend to its shareholders since 2004-05.
According to Capitaline data, in 2014-15 the total dividend paid out by Wipro was Rs 2,945.50 crore and its dividend per share stood at Rs 12 per equity share.