SBI Mutual Fund (MF) has aggressively hiked stake in homegrown FMCG company Emami. The country’s third-largest fund house’s stake in the company increased from 0.68 per cent to 8.8 per cent.
This stake was acquired from Emami promoters who offloaded their shareholding in February and June to repay lenders and bring down their pledged shares.
On February 18, SBI MF picked up 4.49 per cent of the 10 per cent stake sold by the promoter at Rs 355 per share. On June 24, it acquired another 3.67 per cent when the promoters offloaded another 10 per cent stake — this time the acquisition cost was Rs 270 per share.
It is not uncommon for a fund house to acquire large quantity of shares through such block deals. SBI MF’s purchase gained spotlight after rumours started floating that the fund house has debt exposure to Emami and the acquisition was done to support the promoters and avoid the risk of credit default.
SBI MF has clarified that it doesn’t hold any debentures issued by Emami promoter group entities. Ajay Tyagi, chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), when asked about SBI MF’s stake buy in Emami on Thursday, said the regulator is “inquiring”.
People in the know said SBI MF’s stake buy in Emami is a tactical investment.
“SBI MF’s philosophy has been to buy shares of companies that go through turbulence but have good potential. Emami is one such company. It wouldn’t have been possible to acquire such a large stake through the secondary market. So, the fund house used the promoter stake sale as an opportunity to bulk up its holding,” said a market observer.
Since August 2018, shares of Emami have been on a downward slope amid concerns surrounding weak demand and high promoter pledging.
Analysts say these two key concerns for the company could be easing. Emami’s management is forecasting a demand revival and double-digit growth in revenues this financial year. Meanwhile, the outstanding promoter pledge has come down following the 20 per cent divestment by the promoters.
“After the first round of stake sale, promoter debt narrowed to Rs 3,300 crore; it will further decline to Rs 2,200 crore (following the second stake sale). However, given the sharp correction in the stock price, the promoter pledge will not come down proportionately (expected to be 37 per cent after the second round).
The promoters clarified that the remaining Rs 2,200 crore debt is long-term in nature but they still intend to reduce it meaningfully. The promoter group expects funds from the IPO of their cement company and monetisation of few non-core assets,” says a note by Systematic Institutional Equities.
Emami promoters are looking to monetise assets by means of strategic sale, partnerships, investment or other means to raise funds to reduce the promoters’ debt to negligible levels.
“Some assets have ripened and have reached a stage where they can fetch good valuation,” said Aditya Agarwal, director at the Emami group.
Asked about why Emami is bent on reducing promoters’ debt, Agarwal said, “Our stock prices fell sharply and investors were insecure about the debt. We don’t want a repeat of the falling stock prices and want to restore investor confidence.”