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Among the firms that made news for all the wrong reasons are Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines, whose licence was suspended by the DGCA; infrastructure firm GMR, which was asked to pack off from Maldives overnight; debt-laden Adani Enterprises; and of course, Sahara, which was asked by the SC to refund a staggering Rs 17,400 crore to investors
Many companies suffered huge setbacks in 2012 and struggled to survive the year, for a variety of reasons ranging from policy changes to regulatory action to mismanagement. As promoters of such companies ran from pillar to post to save their businesses, the hapless investors, lenders and employees, were at the receiving end. Dev Chatterjee looks back at how 2012 was for them.
Kingfisher Airlines, whose investors lost all their wealth in the company's shares, suspended operations by October as it failed to pay its employees, lenders, fuel supplier HPCL, tax authorities, and airports. This was after the benevolent government-owned banks – which sank as much as Rs 7,000 crore in the airline - finally decided to stop funding the airline in March. Within weeks, the airline was gasping for air as its promoter Mallya failed to bring in any fresh cash on the table as asked by the bankers. Aircraft lessor International Lease Finance Corp was seeking to take back four planes from the airline. In a tragic consequence, a Kingfisher Airlines employee's wife committed suicide due to financial problems arising out the airline's non-payment of salaries for months. As the year came to an end, there was a buzz that Mallya was ready to sell the airline to a Gulf-based carrier, but nothing of the sort did happen. The prediction by Canadian research firm Veritas in September 2011 that the airline was bankrupt came true in 2012.
The Ahmedabad-based Adani group was under attack on multiple fronts during the year. While former Supreme Court Justice and Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde made scathing remarks on the group over illegal mining of iron ore, the group's 1,840 hectares of land-locked special economic zone in Gujarat's Mundra was cancelled by the government over alleged violations of special economic zone rules. To make matters worse, the group's Australian mining projects is facing the ire of global environment campaigner Greenpeace. However, by the year-end, Adani successfully came out with a share sale. The company is now planning to raise $1.2 billion by the next quarter to reduce its debt burden. In the New Year, analysts expect Adani to focus on cutting its Rs 70,000 crore of debt, and consolidate operations.
Sahara dragged Sebi to the Supreme Court after the regulator asked it to refund money to investors of its optionally fully-convertible debenture (OFCD) scheme. In a judgement dated December 5, the apex court also directed Sahara to pay Rs 17,400 crore along with interest and not to delay the process. The court asked Sahara to issue pay orders for an aggregate amount of Rs 5,120 crore to Sebi and the remaining amount in two instalments - Rs 10,000 crore in the first week of January 2013 and the remaining amount in the first week of February 2013.
The Bangalore-based GMR Group received a rude shock from overseas. The Maldivian government asked the group to pack off from the Male airport, which the group was contracted to develop. The local government also targeted GMR for alleged corruption and said that a national asset like airport cannot be run by a foreign company. It was the domestic politics in Maldives that turned the tide against GMR. According to the current government led by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the deal with GMR signed by the previous regime headed by Mohamed Nasheed was "against national interest". Finally, on December 7, GMR had to hand over the airport to the Maldivian government. The company is now consolidating its operations, hoping that the next year will be much better than the last.