India top court defers Sahara hearing to Wednesday

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 04, 2012 07:05 hrs

India's Supreme Court deferred until Wednesday a hearing over the Sahara conglomerate's failure to meet the court's guidelines to repay billions of dollars it had raised from investors through bond sales that were later ruled to be illegal.

On Aug. 31, the court had asked Sahara to repay within 90 days as much as 240 billion rupees ($4.4 billion) to up to nearly 30 million mostly small investors, plus interest of 15 percent a year.

Sahara said in newspaper advertisements on Saturday it had "cleared" about 330 billion rupees to investors in the so-called optionally fully-convertible debentures and had maximum outstanding liability of 51.20 billion rupees, which it was ready to deposit with the authorities.

India's capital markets regulator said in late October it had received complaints from investors that they were being "forced" by agents and officials of Sahara to switch the money held through the outlawed bonds to other investment products sold by the group.

A member of a two-judge Supreme Court bench on Monday said Sahara had defaulted on paying the money as ordered by Nov. 30, the Economic Times newspaper reported.

The Supreme Court said it would hear the case on Wednesday, after a lawyer for Sahara sought more time to reply to why the group had not complied with the court's order.

The unlisted Sahara, whose interests range from real estate to insurance and sports, is a household name in India, where it is the lead sponsor of the national cricket team. It recently bought New York's Plaza Hotel, and had earlier bought the Grosvenor House hotel in London.

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