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Maldives can take control of airport: Singapore SC

Male says GMR exiting studying order, says firm

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

The tussle between the Maldives government and India’s GMR Group over the handover of Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport got murkier on Thursday, with conflicting claims from both sides.

Even as the island nation’s government claimed GMR had agreed to vacate the airport tomorrow, following an order of the Singapore Supreme Court, the company categorically denied it had had any such discussion with the government.

Singapore’s apex court, overturning an earlier high court order that had allowed GMR to continue operations at the airport, on Thursday ruled that the Maldivian government could take control.

The story so far
Jun 28, ’10 Concession pact executed among MACL, the Maldives govt through its finance and treasury ministry, and a GMR consortium
Jul 28, ’11 Maldives’ civil aviation department sends a letter to GMIAL saying it is authorised to collect $25 as airport development charge (ADC) from all international passengers departing from the airport
Dec 8, ’11  A civil court disallows the collection of ADC 
Dec 26, ’11  GMIAL writes to MACL, making a claim to set off the shortfall on account of non-collection of ADC against the payment of future variable annual concession fees
Jan 5, ’12  GMIAL allowed to set off the shortfall
Feb 7, ’12 The erstwhile President, Mohamed Nasheed, resigns
Apr 19, ’12 Consent letter for new arrangement retracted 
Jul 20, ’12 GMIAL files anti-suit injunction application in Singapore HC
Oct 25, ’12 Constitution of arbitral tribunal completed
Nov 28, ’12 Maldives cancels contract
Dec 6, ’12 Singapore SC rules Maldives can take control of the Male airport

The Maldivian President’s press secretary, Masood Imad, told Business Standard GMR had said at a meeting attended by GMIAL CEO Andrew Harrison it would exit on Friday. He added: “The firm had no option, as it understood the highest appellate body in Singapore had ruled in MACL’s favour.”

A GMR spokesperson, on the other hand, said: “We have not had any discussion with the government on handing over the airport... We are still studying the oral order of the Singapore Court of Appeals. We would comment only after studying the final written order.”

The GMR group says it has invested around $240 million — $80 million equity and $160 million debt — in the Male airport.

About the compensation Maldives would have to pay to GMR, Siddharth Kapur, the company’s CFO, said at a press conference: “We are yet to arrive at a figure for compensation, if we have to exit the project prematurely.” To this, Imad said his government would abide by the Singapore court’s decision.

Asking the Indian media not to paint this as an India-Maldives conflict, Imad said: “This is a B-to-B (business-to-business) issue and there should be no India-Maldives colour given to this. The Maldives government got involved in this as the guarantor of the agreement.”

On the Singapore SC verdict, agencies quoted Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry, as saying: “Fulfilment of all legal requirements is what we want to see in this case. We hope all relevant contracts and agreements would be adhered to and legal processes followed.”

The GMR Infra scrip dropped 1.2 per cent to close at Rs 19.8 on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Thursday.

First Published: Fri, December 07 2012. 00:27 IST