Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Bangladesh government has asked Unilever and Aventis to offload their 10 per cent shares, including five per cent stakes of it in each of the two global consumer goods and pharmaceutical giants.

The industries ministry of Bangladesh made the fresh offer after the two multinational companies sought to acquire the government stakes, officials said.

The ministry had sought legal opinion from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about selling the government’s five per cent shares out to the public.

“We’ve asked the SEC to initiate legal procedure to allow offloading of the shares in the two multinationals,” said a high official of the ministry, who attended a meeting Tuesday on how to offload their shares, was quoted by the New Age, a local newspaper, as saying.

The issues were discussed Tuesday at an industries ministry meeting, presided over by Mahbub Jamil, special assistant to the chief advisor, and attended by senior officials of Unilever, Aventis and SEC.

Rules allow the majority shareholder of a company to buy the stakes of the smaller shareholder if the latter agrees to sell its shares.

However, in this case, the government wants to sell its five per cent shares to the public and asks both Unilever and Aventis to offload another five per cent shares through the country’s two stock markets, the newspaper reported on Saturday.

Officials of the two multinational companies offered to buy the government stakes while the industries ministry proposed that the government’s five per cent shares should be sold in the country’s capital market.

The Unilever Bangladesh board earlier rejected a similar proposal of the industries ministry to offload five per cent of its 39.5 per cent stakes in the company.

Bangladesh government holds about 40 per cent stake in the Bangladesh operations of French drug maker Aventis, now known as Sanofi-Aventis.

The government had decided to offload at least five per cent of its stakes in the multinational companies such as Unilever and Aventis by April 2006 as part of its wide-ranging plan to strengthen the country’s capital market.

But no visible progress could be made in more than two years since then due to indifference of the multinational companies, the newspaper reported quoting the industries ministry officials.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-20September08-12:27 PM