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Air India may raise loans against Rs 2,500 cr GoI guarantee

After failing to find a bidder in its previous term, the Modi 2.0 government is working this time on war-footing to sell Air India to a private player.

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New Delhi, Oct 9 : State-run Air India hopes to meet its fund requirements by raising loans against the government guarantee for Rs 2,500 crore and run its business smoothly till the sale process concludes.

“We have not decided on further loans from banks. We have the Government of India (GoI) guarantee for Rs 2,500 crore and if needed, we may raise some loans,” said a top Air India official wishing not to be named.

The airline has been put on the block by the government as part of its disinvestment target in FY20. A ministerial panel led by Home Minister Amit Shah is likely to decide the terms of sale in coming weeks.

As the disinvestment process is underway, the airline has been directed to freeze all appointments and hold on promotions. In the wake of the stake sale, fleet expansion is also on hold.

The airline has, however, expanded its network in the last few months, connecting more cities locally and internationally by bringing back its grounded airplanes into operations.

“We have not taken any new plane for adding flights. We are repairing the grounded aircraft and putting them back into operations. We have not incurred any major expenditure on it,” the official quoted above said.

The Shah-led panel had met last week for the first time after their reconstitution but did not take any decision. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said after the first meeting that second meeting will be scheduled shortly to take decisions related to disinvestment.

Among many issues on the meeting agenda of the first meeting was transferring more debt, over and above Rs 29,464 crore decided earlier, to Air India Assets Holdings Ltd (AIAHL) to make the deal attractive for private parties.

The government plan to sell Air India failed last year as no private party showed any interest in buying a majority 76 per cent stake on offer. The prospective buyers stayed away from the bidding finding some of the terms unfavourable.

After failing to find a bidder in its previous term, the Modi 2.0 government is working this time on war-footing to sell Air India to a private player.

Air India is currently surviving on a Rs 30,000 crore bail-out package cleared by the UPA-II government.

(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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Singh Bros were alter egos acting with impunity

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Shivinder Mohan Singh, Malvinder Mohan Singh,

New Delhi, Oct 20 : How were the Singh Bros — Malvinder Mohan Singh (MMS) and Shivinder Mohan Singh (SMS) — the centrifugal forces behind the Rs 3,000 crore Religare Group fraud?

Working in conjunction with CEO Sunil Godhwani (SG), the troika stripped Religare Finvest (RFL) and other group companies bare through a craftily structured construct which allowed them to fly under the radar and even operate with impunity to avoid detailed regulatory supervision of the RBI.

It is pertinent to mention that at the time the loan was extended, SMS, MMS and SG were fully controlling RFL and were acting as its alter egos. Therefore, it is impossible that the aforesaid transaction was carried out without their knowledge and support. In addition to cheating, SMS, MMS and SG are also liable for the offence of criminal breach of trust since RFL and its shareholders had reposed their trust in the said erstwhile promoters and senior management of the parent entity REL and of RFL.

Since the Board of Directors of RFL was accustomed to the act as per their advice and instructions, they thus exercised deep and pervasive control over it.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that RFL separately also extended loans cumulatively amounting to Rs 120 crore to Vitobha, Best and Devera and even those loans have not yet been repaid, which is indicative of yet another set of fraudulent transactions intended to siphon off monies and cause wrongful loss to RFL, and its shareholders.

Tara Alloys Ltd admits that a loan amount of Rs 85 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 by RFL to it taken as a Short Term Loan (for short “the STL”) which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Tara alleged that the amount was transferred back to RFL on May 24, 2017 through intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL to enable to repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears that upon obtaining the loan money from RFL, Tara transferred the same to some other entities and never intended to repay this loan to RFL.

Gurudev Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on May 24, 2017 taken as STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. Gurudev submitted that 5th loan amount of Rs 100 crore obtained from RFL was further transferred to intermediary companies, alleged at the behest of RFL to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day.

It appears from the documents annexed that Gurudev transferred the funds received from RFL to some other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFKL.

Annies Apparel Pvt Ltd also admits that the loan amount of Rs 100 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as a STL, which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. The said loan was to be repayable by Annies to RFL on March 31, 2017. Annnies submits that the loan amount was further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at RFL’s behest to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed that the amout has been transferred further by Annnies to other entities and never intended to repay the loan to RFL.

Shri Dham Distributors Pvt Ltd. (earlier known as Abhiruchi Distributors Pvt Ltd) admits that the loan amount of Rs 92.40 crore was disbursed on February 1, 2017 by RFL to it as STL which carries an interest @14 per cent p.a. and the loan amount further transferred to intermediary companies, allegedly at the behest of RFL, to enable a repayment of loans obtained from it by other third parties, within hours of the receipt on the same day. It appears from documents annexed to the reply that the amount has been transferred further by Shri Dham to other entities and it never intended to repay this loan back to RFL.

One needs to add that the all these aforesaid entities are clearly connected and were acting as one economic unit while internal inquiries point to the fact that they are controlled by the brothers’ stockbroker N.K. Ghoshal and the registered office address of the aforesaid entities is also the same – 2764/17, 2nd floor, Hamilton Road, Mori Gate, North Delhi, Delhi 110006.

The plea adopted by the entities is also identical i.e. funds disbursed by RFL were transferred to intermediary companies to enable a repayment of loans obtained from RFL by other third parties. It is evident from the above that while these entities admit receipt of money and admit that since inception of the transaction(s), they never intended to repay the money back to the complainant company. Instead as intended, they transferred the money to certain intermediary companies. The loan(s) advanced to the aforesaid entities were never repaid, and it appears from their replies that they colluded with other entities and amongst themselves (since they are acting as a single economic unit, controlled by one person) to conspire and abet in the siphoning away of money from RFL, thereby causing a wrongful loss to RFL and its shareholders.

In the present case it appears from their admission that RFL was cheated by the directors/persons controlling these entities, which in addition to its directors as the relevant time is believed to be Ghoshal) and the directors and persons controlling the so-called intermediary companies to which the money was transferred, and allegedly in collusion and conspiracy with the erstwhile promoters and senior management of REL/RFL. While the replies do not clearly mention the name of the intermediary companies, the documents annexed to the reply show transactions with many entities who have taken other loans from RFL under the Corporate Loan Book portfolio.

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Policy space exists to address growth concerns: RBI Governor

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Shaktikanta Das

Mumbai, Oct 18 : In what could mean further rate cuts by India’s central bank, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das has said at the bi-monthly monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting here earlier this month that “there is policy space to address growth concerns”, according to the minutes of the MPC meeting released on Friday.

In 2019, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has delivered 135 basis points (bps) of cuts in its key lending rate.

Das, according to the minutes, saw domestic demand moderating significantly.

“As the inflation scenario remains benign with headline inflation projected at below target in the remaining period of 2019-20 and in Q1:2020-21, there is policy space to address growth concerns,” Das said.

“The weakening of private consumption, which, for long, has been the bedrock of aggregate demand, in particular, is a matter of concern,” the Governor added.

Besides, a number of MPC members expressed concerns over the transmission of rates. While Das said that “monetary transmission has remained weak” external member Chetan Ghate said the “monetary transmission has worsened since the last review”.

Das, however, cautioned the government, saying that “there is also a need to be watchful of the fiscal situation; however, the government has indicated that it would maintain the fiscal deficit”.

On the road ahead, MPC member Michael Debabrata Patra stressed that a full throttle effort by all arms of macroeconomic management is the need of the hour.

The RBI on October 5 announced a 25 basis point rate cut in its repo, or short-term lending rate for commercial banks, to 5.15 per cent, from 5.40 per cent, after the rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth during the first quarter slumped to 5 per cent.

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Banking services may be hit Oct 22 as unions warn of strike

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Bank strike

New Delhi, Oct 18 : Banking services could be affected next week as two bank unions have warned they will go on a 24-hour long strike on October 22 to protest against the recent bank mergers, falling deposit rates and a call for job security.

The two unions – the All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) and the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) – have informed the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) through a notice that they will go on strike from 6 a.m. on October 22 to 6 a.m. on October 23.

State Bank of India has already said the impact would be minimum as most of its employees are not members of the participating unions.

“The membership of our bank employees in unions participating in the strike is very few, so the impact of strike on our operation will be minimal,” SBI said in the notice. It further said the loss from the proposed strike cannot be quantified as of now.

Other banks such as Bank of Maharashtra and Syndicate Bank have, however, expressed concern over providing customer services.

“The bank is taking necessary steps tor smooth functioning of branches on the proposed strike day. However in the event the strike materialises, the functioning of the branches/offices may be impacted,” Syndicate Bank said in a notice to stock exchanges.

Bank of Baroda, in a filing with the exchanges, said: “The Bank is taking necessary steps for smooth functioning of bank’s branches on the day of strike, in the event the strike materialises, the functioning of the branches may be affected/paralysed.”

AIBEA and BEFI said they are opposing outsourcing of regular and perennial nature of banking jobs, and privatisation of banking industry while demanding adequate recruitment of clerical and sub-staff and stringent steps for recovery of mounting bad loans.

Last month, the officers’ unions had called a two-day all India bank strike on September 26 and 27 that was later withdrawn on government intervention.

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