MFs agree to extend time to Essel Group for repayment of loan

Mumbai: The Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group on Wednesday said mutual funds from which it has borrowed money have "unanimously" decided to grant it more time for repayments.

In a statement that comes amid media reports of a few fund houses selling their holdings in the company ahead of the September 30 deadline, the group did not specify the mutual funds which have supported it, or the amount due.

The fund houses had an outstanding of over Rs 11,000 crore from Essel Group and had done the unprecedented in granting it more time to repay even in the face of massive corrections in the share prices of Zee Entertainment Enterprises, their core security.

"Lenders have unanimously agreed to extend the timeline, enabling the Group to optimize the value output from the sale of its assets," a statement from the group said.

"The mentioned extension of the timeline was requested purely in the interest deriving the right value of the precious assets of the Group," it added.

Promoters had borrowed the money for other businesses including infrastructure, roads and power, by pledging their holdings of ZEEL. A majority of these bets went awry and the liquidity crisis created by the collapse of IL&FS made it difficult to refinance the debt.

Simultaneously, bears mauled the ZEEL scrip as well, triggering a piquant situation where the value of security held by the lenders went down. In the face of the troubles, and with a view to protect the value, nearly the dozen MFs decided to give Essel more time.

The sell-off in the ZEEL shares was termed as sabotage by the promoters.

According to recent media reports, the MF houses were divided over the issue of granting more time to Chandra.

Another report also named Kotak Mutual Fund as having sold stakes in the company recently.

It can be noted that till now, the promoters have sold their ZEEL holdings in two tranches to raise over Rs 4,000 crore. They have also signed a deal with Adani Energy to sell solar assets for Rs 1,300 crore.

According to reports, the Essel Group has made some part payments to its creditors as the money from the stake sales started flowing in.

The ZEEL scrip closed 2.65 per cent down at Rs 271.90 a piece on the BSE on Wednesday as against a 1.29 per cent correction in the benchmark.

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