Holders of Sterling Biotech’s foreign currency convertible bonds of Rs 1,000 crore ($184 million) have moved the high court here for its liquidation, five months after the company defaulted on repayment.
The Bank of New York Mellon (BONY), custodian for the bond holders, filed the petition earlier this month against the city-based gelatin maker. It is likely to be heard in November, according to lawyers familiar with the development.
“The petitioner believes that the company is in talks to further dispose of its other businesses and assets, and in the interest of justice, equity and good conscience, the company ought not to be permitted to (do so),” BONY’s petition has said.
The custodian has also filed particulars of claim, a legal document filed by companies seeking recovery, with a court in Britain for recovery of the dues. An email seeking comments, sent on Monday to Nitin Sandesara, managing director and promoter of Sterling Biotech, did not elicit any response.
The bond holders are also objecting to certain transactions with Sterling’s oil venture in Nigeria. According to them, Sterling Biotech has 17 per cent equity in the venture, for a paltry $20 million, whereas the actual value is manifold. “The reserves were valued by the company itself to be $10 billion recently. If so, how can a 17 per cent stake be sold for $20 million?" they have questioned.
Though the company has appointed advisers Houlihan Lokey and Avista to restructure the terms, bond holders are not ready to accept these terms due to the alleged discrepancies they have discovered in the account books.
In 2007, Sterling had issued $250 million of convertible bonds. Of these, the company has redeemed and converted bonds amounting to some $115 mn or 46 per cent of the initial issue. The conversion price was Rs 163.13. However, since then, the share price has plummeted to about Rs 6, due to debt problems. On May 17, it was supposed to repay the maturity amount of $184 million, on which it defaulted.
Lenders say the plants of the gelatin maker are running well below capacity, as it is not able to get working capital loans. State Bank of Mysore and IDBI Bank have already filed lawsuits for recovery of dues.