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Azim Premji plans to cut stake in Wipro Ltd

Azim Premji intends to cut his 82 % stake in Wipro Ltd, but the pace and timing to be guided by his philanthropic commitments.

business Updated: Aug 31, 2005 17:26 IST

India's richest resident Azim Premji says he intends to cut his 82 per cent stake in Wipro Ltd, the country's third largest software exporter, but the pace and timing of it will be guided by his philanthropic commitments. Premji, 59, is ranked 38 in the Forbes list of billionaires with a personal wealth valued at $9.3 billion.

New regulations announced this week by the country's stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India, require Wipro to offer at least 25 per cent shares for public trading. Companies will be given two years to comply with the new rules.

"At an appropriate time we will come down," Premji told reporters at a late Tuesday cocktail party. "We understand this. We are a large company; a larger float (of stocks) is desirable," he said.

Currently, the public holds 17.63 per cent shares of Wipro, which is also listed on the Nasdaq on the United States. Premji didn't give a timeframe to cut his stake, but indicated it would depend on technical interpretations of the new rules and his monetary commitment to the Azim Premji Foundation, which provides education to poor children in rural India.

"We are giving a lot of money to the foundation," he said. There are some exemptions to the new regulations from the securities board, but it is not immediately clear if those would apply to Wipro. Premji said his company was examining the new rules. Wipro is India's third largest software and back-office outsourcing company, which also has interest in lighting, consumer products and edible oil.

Its revenues totaled $1.87 billion in the last financial year ending in March, of which $1.39 billion came from Western outsourcing.

First Published: Aug 31, 2005 17:26 IST