HC stays Deccan Chronicle stakeholder meet as lenders oppose loan waiver

HC stays Deccan Chronicle stakeholder meet as lenders oppose loan waiver

By S. RAMA KRISHNA | HYDERABAD | 19 March, 2016

The meeting between the Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited (DCHL)’s stakeholders and the money lenders, scheduled on Saturday, had to be cancelled following a stay order by Hyderabad High Court on Thursday. The HC issued the stay order after hearing a petition filed by a group of financiers including India Bulls and Tata Capital. These lenders refused to accept a one-time settlement proposal which was supposed to be adopted at the meeting. The Srei Infrastructure and Finance Limited (SIFL), the Kolkata based company which now holds around 24% shares in the DCHL, has come up with the idea of holding a meeting of all stakeholders and lenders in Hyderabad on Saturday to settle their dues and find a new management to run the group. As per a formula circulated by the SIFL, all the DC lenders and financiers would give up 75% of their debt and the remaining 25% would be settled as equity holding in the revamped group or through cash payment. All the debtors agreeing to this formula would withdraw all the cases and complaints filed against DCHL, which owns Deccan Chronicle English daily and other publications, in different courts and tribunals, SIFL’s note stated. If this plan is approved, the lenders, comprising around a dozen bankers and half a dozen financiers, will forego three fourths of their dues, which roughly stands around Rs 2,700 crore. They will, however, get shares worth around Rs 900 crore. Besides that, the DCHL owes Rs 1,500 crore to various debtors including newsprint suppliers, sources said. Though DC’s present chairman T. Venkattram Reddy is believed to have given his consent to the formula floated by the SIFL, a section of lenders are opposed to it on the ground that such a huge waiver is not acceptable. Moreover, ICICI Bank, a major lender whose debt exposure with the DC group is around Rs 500 crore, has been questioning SIFL’s right to convene the stakeholders’ meeting. Lack of consensus among the lending bankers has become a blessing in disguise to the DC management which has been prolonging any move to settle the dispute by taking over the company and its assets. An ongoing CBI probe into falsification of documents to raise a loan of Rs 320 crore from Canara Bank is also standing in the way of settling the matter. Justice S.V. Bhatt of the HC, who granted the stay, called for more details from the SIFL on how it plans to resolve the debt crisis and updated accounts details of the DCHL. The current formula is based on its financial reports for 2011-12.

 

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