US-based Arena Investors evinced interest to acquire Srei before RBI took control

US-based Arena Investors evinced interest to acquire Srei before RBI took control

Arena Investors, a US-based company, had proposed to buy 74% in Srei Equipment Finance, a wholly owned subsidiary of Srei Infrastructure Finance for about Rs 2,000 crore before the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took control of the non-bank lender on Monday, two people familiar with the matter told ET.

The Srei group had forwarded the proposal to RBI for a review a couple of months ago, the executives said. Arena is an institutional asset manager that provides solutions for those seeking capital in special situations

Singapore-based Makara Capital Partners had also proposed to bring in about Rs 2,200 crore.

ET had sent mails to both Arena and Makara last Saturday on the matter but both companies didn’t respond until Tuesday evening.

Srei’s board of directors and the strategic coordination committee for capital raising, chaired by an independent director, had accepted the proposals and sent them to the regulator for approval, Srei Infrastrcuture’s former chairman Hemant Kanoria said Tuesday.

It is not clear at this juncture if RBI finds Arena or Makara fit enough to acquire Srei, a lender to the country’s core sector, or if it prefers a domestic company to take over Srei. RBI has initiated steps to move Srei to the bankruptcy court so that lenders and bond holders can recover their money from Srei. Their cumulative exposure is in the vicinity of Rs 31,000 crore.

As many as 11 investors had evinced interest in Srei, while Arena and Makara submitted non-binding terms sheets to the non-bank lender.

Some of those included Varde Partners, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) and Apollo Global. They could not be contacted immediately for comments.

The group had approached the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) with a repayment scheme aligned to inflows for all its creditors. The scheme had proposed to pay full dues to all creditors in a structured manner. A majority of the lenders did not accept the scheme.

After the scheme was filed in October 2020, banks led by Uco Bank took control of the company’s cash flow. Since November last year, banks have recovered about Rs 3,000 crore.

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