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Govt may move to seize control of IL&FS management, supercede current board

Rescuing IL&FS group is vital for authorities to stem the risk of default spreading to other lenders in the world's fastest-growing major economy

Ameya Karve Saloni Shukla | Bloomberg 

Lessons from IL&FS saga

The Indian government may move to seize control of the management of an Indian financier that’s roiled markets by defaulting on debt, according to media reports, with the move coming just after the beleaguered company unveiled details of a restructuring proposal.

The Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal will hear a ministry of corporate affairs case against Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. and others on Monday, according to a cause list on its website. The government may seek a management change and look to supersede the existing board, CNBC reported in a Twitter post, citing government sources it did not name. India’s corporate affairs ministry has only sought to take control of a company on two prior occasions.

Rescuing group, which has total debt of $12.6 billion -- 61 percent in the form of loans from financial institutions -- is vital for authorities to stem the risk of default spreading to other lenders in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. stockholders over the weekend separately endorsed a plan to raise as much as 150 billion rupees ($2.1 billion) through a non-convertible debt sale and increase the firm’s borrowing limit by 100 billion rupees to 350 billion rupees.

“Time-bound execution of the plans outlined to shareholders is the key to salvaging the situation,” said Kranthi Bathini, a Mumbai-based director at WealthMills Securities Ltd. “Market still expects the government will step in and act decisively to save the group rather than pushing them to do a fire-sale of assets.”

also got shareholder permission to boost its share capital to enable a rights offering.

The firm has hired Alvarez & Marsal, which helped revamp Jet Airways India Ltd. in 2015 and is currently working on restructuring Essar Steel Ltd., to come up with a plan to rescue the company.

The beleaguered group can raise 600 billion rupees by selling assets, according to the chairman of its biggest shareholder and the nation’s largest life insurer, Life Insurance Corp. of India. LIC Chairman V.K. Sharma on Friday said the insurer is open to subscribing to the lender’s rights offer.

“Backing by top shareholder of is a comforting factor for the markets,” said Kunal Shah, senior vice president at Mumbai-based Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance Co. “The overhang and concerns will soothe further when there are definitive signs of an actual transaction happening -- be it an asset sale or fundraising through a rights offering.”

Other investors in IL&FS also include Japan’s Orix Corp., the second-largest shareholder in the company, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Housing Development Finance Corp., India’s biggest mortgage lender.

IL&FS funds infrastructure projects across Asia’s third-largest economy and is considered to be systemically important by the central bank. Its defaults on commercial paper, once considered rock-solid, from August sparked concern among households holding mutual funds invested in such debt, and forced banks, mutual and pension fund managers to brace for further losses.

The fear added to pressure on borrowing costs for all in India’s credit market, led to a slump in corporate bond issuance and sparked a brief but sharp sell-off in equities. There was also concern that the group’s troubles could spread to other shadow banks and crimp Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s infrastructure plans before elections next year.

“Any economy, especially emerging economies, should try to prevent a liquidity crisis at any cost, as that can lead to solvency risk across the system,” Centrum’s Thunuguntla said. “The government has to step in soon as a coordination point between RBI, LIC and Sebi just the way U.S. government did in 2008” during the Lehman crisis, he said referring to the Indian central bank and the market regulator.

Reserve Bank of India officials on Friday met the top shareholders of IL&FS in Mumbai to assess a debt resolution plan.

The company has already received satisfactory offers for 14 out of the 25 assets put on the block, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.

IL&FS has felt the pain from interest rates that have soared to multi-year highs for short-term borrowings. On top of that, some of IL&FS’s own construction projects including roads and ports have faced cost overruns amid delays in land acquisition and approvals. Disputes over contracts have locked about 90 billion rupees of payments due from the government.

IL&FS’s outstanding debentures and commercial paper accounted for 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively, of those markets as of March 31, according to Moody’s Investor Services. Its bank loans made up about 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent of banking system loans, Moody’s said.

First Published: Mon, October 01 2018. 13:04 IST
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