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Premji to cut his stake in Wipro

By Rajesh Mahapatra in New Delhi
Last updated on: August 31, 2005 13:58 IST
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Wipro chairman Azim Premji. Photograph: AFP/Getty ImagesIndia'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, 17.63 per cent shares of Wipro, which is also listed on the Nasdaq on the United States, are held by the public.

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, chairman of Wipro, 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 totalled $1.87 billion in the last financial year ended in March, of which $1.39 billion came from Western outsourcing.
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Rajesh Mahapatra in New Delhi
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