Millennium Post

Sahara says confident of getting out of financial constraints by next fiscal, entering new businesses

New Delhi: Embattled Sahara group has said it is confident of getting out of long-running financial constraints by the next fiscal and will regain a key position as an Indian conglomerate by entering several new businesses.

Sahara has been locked in a prolonged legal battle with capital markets regulator Sebi for allegedly breaching norms in raising nearly Rs 25,000 crore through certain bonds. The Subrata Roy-led group was later asked by the Supreme Court to deposit the funds with Sebi for refund to investors, even as it maintains to have already refunded majority of the bondholders.

In a detailed newspaper advertisement on its 'financial issues', Sahara said funds totalling more than Rs 20,000 crore, deposited by it with Sebi and the interest accrued, are lying idle whereas the regulator has managed to refund only Rs 91 crore to the investors in last five years as the group has already repaid majority of the investors.

The group said it is confident that the money in Sebi-Sahara account will come back to it after verification of documents about the investor repayments.

Confident of its "bright and prosperous future", Sahara said it has been banned from raising any funds as proceeds from any sale of its assets go directly to the Sebi-Sahara account and "not a single rupee can be used for the needs of the group".

Due to this ban, the group said, it has lost business opportunities of earning several thousands of crores of rupees.

Besides, its cash flow took a hit of Rs 15,000 crore after it had to refund around Rs 22,000 crore to investors in just 6-7 per months during the year 2012, as against the planned repayment in small amounts over 16-17 years under the original financial schemes, Sahara said.

The group, however, expressed confidence that it would attain a "key position in India" by 2019-20 after clearing all hurdles and obstructions, as its assets continue to be three times of its liabilities.

Asked to explain further on its assertions, a Sahara group spokesperson said the liability was Rs 62,104 crore as on December 31, 2014, while assets were Rs 1,77,229 crore, and the ratio of the figures are not much different today.

Replying to a query on how it expects to overcome all financial constraints by 2019-20, the group said, "Sahara is confident that Sebi will be directed very soon to start the verification of the documents of Sahara's investors, which are already with the Sebi."

It said Sahara in 2012 had provided documents proving repayments made by it which includes original vouchers, bond certificates and other maturity documents and receipts, etc.

"This at one end will resolve this long drawn case, as the central point of the case is that Sahara's investors are refunded.

"The verification will itself reveal that Sahara has already refunded more than 95 per cent of its investors, hence, the majority of Rs 20,000 crore of Sahara's money (including the interest) which is with Sebi will be refunded back to Sahara," the group asserted.

Sahara said this money, along with lifting of the embargo, will end the woes of the group, its 14-lakh workers and crores of its customers.

"Due to the embargo, for past five years, Sahara is facing constraints in operation of its businesses... By 2019-20, all these issues will be resolved and we are sure that Sahara will attain a key position in the country.

"Along with the present businesses, Sahara is also entering into new businesses, which are at different levels of development, and shall be launched one after another within this year," the group added.

Besides financial services, Sahara group has been present in real estate, FMCG and various other businesses.

On the negative impact on cash flow, Sahara said it cannot be reversed.

"Had there not been such payment order in 2012, which we had to do within few months, we would have cash assets of nearly Rs 15,000 crore today. This has created a huge problem that we are not able to make repayments in time," it said.

"Despite the fact that Sahara refunded more than 95 per cent of its investors, it has been continuously depositing money in Sahara-Sebi account for the purpose of the same refund and this money is now around Rs 20,000 crore (including interest earned).

"This double payment against single liability has cast an extra burden on the financial strength of Sahara," the group said.

Sebi, in November 2010, had asked two entities of Sahara Group not to mobilise funds from equity markets or from issuance of any security to the public while restraining the group from approaching public for raising money.

Sahara Group companies -- Sahara India Real Estate Corporation and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation -- raised funds in 2007-08 through certain Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures (OFCDs).

Later in June 2011, the regulator had asked two group

entities to return money collected from investors through OFCDs along with the return. In 2012, the Supreme Court had ordered to repay the money to investors along with 15 per cent interest.

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