Mallya exits USL but over 2 lakh investors still stuck in KFA

mallya_2755307fVijay Mallya.

In an irony of sorts, over two lakh investors are estimated to be stuck with shares of long- grounded Kingfisher Airlines even as its lenders are now eyeing the Rs. 515-crore bounty sealed by main promoter Vijay Mallya as part of a ‘sweetheart deal’ to exit United Spirits.

Diageo, the new owner of United Spirits Ltd (USL), has in return agreed to absolve Mr. Mallya of all his “personal liabilities’ with regard to alleged financial irregularities relating to dealings with UB Group entities.

But, USL has asserted that the recovery of loans worth Rs. 1,337 crore would be pursued from United Breweries Holdings Ltd (UBHL) through “dialogue or other legal means”.

Interestingly, UBHL is now left with a total market value of just about Rs. 148 crore although it continues to have more than 51,000 public shareholders including over 50,000 small retail investors.

Other shareholders include 14 mutual funds, 14 banks/ financial institutions, 10 foreign portfolio investors, one insurer, one government entity and nearly 100 HNIs.

The total number of public shareholders has come down from over 56,000 a year ago, including over 53,000 small retail investors and nearly 175 HNIs.

In case of Kingfisher Airlines, the trading in its shares have been suspended for long due to its non-compliance to various listing requirements including its failure to make timely disclosure of shareholding data and other details.

As per the latest shareholding data disclosure till September 2014, it had over 2.33 lakh small retail investors, over 6,200 HNIs, 13 banks and other domestic financial institutions, as also five promoter entities.

Ironically, the number of public shareholders across all categories was higher than the levels before the airline was grounded in October 2012. The total number of public shareholders went up during this period from 2.1 lakh to over 2.4 lakh. The company now commands a market cap of just about Rs. 110 crore, as against that of close to Rs. 10,000 crore before it landed in financial mess leading to its grounding.

The airline’s unpaid loans worth thousands of crores of rupees led to several banks, including state-run SBI declaring Mr. Mallya, Kingfisher and UBHL as wilful defaulters.

The banks are now said to be eyeing USD 75-million (Rs 515 crore) payment that Diageo has agreed to pay to Mr. Mallya as part of the deal for his exit as Chairman and non-executive director of United Spirits, where UB Group had earlier sold controlling stake to the global liquor giant.

The finer contours of the deal, as also the share price movements in run-up to its announcement and the transfer of liabilities from Mr. Mallya to UBHL, are already being scrutinised by various regulatory authorities including Sebi and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

An USL spokesperson had earlier said they had not received any request from Sebi to date.

“Clearly if we do, we will of course provide any information required,” the spokesperson said on Friday night.

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