Embattled tycoon Anil Ambani on Tuesday vowed to cut debt of his group to “bare” minimum and said more than Rs 35,000 crore of loans have been paid back in the last 14 months and all future payment obligations will be met in a timely manner.
Ambani, who a couple of months back avoided a possible jail term after elder brother and richest Indian Mukesh Ambani paid off an overdue liability towards a contractor, has been on an asset sale spree to raise funds to cut about Rs 1 lakh crore of debt at his infrastructure-to-finance conglomerate.
In recent weeks, he sold a radio station and mutual fund business and is said to be in talks to sell general insurance unit.
In a media conference call, he blamed “unwarranted rumour-mongering” for the sharp fall in shares of his group firms, Reliance Power Ltd and Reliance Infrastructure Ltd.
“The Group was fully committed to meeting all future debt servicing obligations in a timely manner, through further asset monetisation plans that are already at various stages of implementation,” Anil Ambani said.
He expressed confidence in transforming the Group to “capital light (with) bare minimal debt, and a higher return on equity”.
Once ranked among India’s top billionaires, Ambani, 60, has seen his wealth erode in the last five years due to burgeoning debt at his group firms. Shares of his group firms have tumbled more than 65 per cent since January.
“Unwarranted rumour mongering, speculation, and bear hammering of all Reliance Group companies shares over the last few weeks, has caused grave damage to all our stakeholders,” he said.
Despite challenging conditions and no financial support from financiers, the group has repaid the principal of Rs 24,800 crore and made interest payments of Rs 10,600 crore between April 1, 2018, and May 31, 2019, he said.
These payments are related to debt of Reliance Capital, Reliance Power and Reliance Infra, and their respective affiliates.
Blaming regulatory institutions and courts for some of the group problems, he said the delay in passing verdicts has kept the group from receiving dues of over Rs 30,000 crore.
“To compound the matter, the regulatory bodies and courts have not passed any final adjudication order on claims aggregating to over Rs 30,000 crore that is due for more than five to 10 years to our various group companies especially Reliance Infrastructure, Reliance Power and their affiliates,” he said.
Final decisions have only been inordinately and repeatedly delayed for one reason or the other, Ambani added.
His group has been trying to sell telecom spectrum and tower business but has faced regulatory hurdles.
Stating that Rs 35,000 crore of payments were made in the face of “insurmountable odds and the most challenging financial environment”, he said during the 14 month period, lenders from all categories—banks, mutual funds, insurance companies, provident funds or NBFCs—provided no additional liquidity or debt to any entity of the Reliance Group.
Ambani said the debt servicing payments of over Rs 35,000 crore had to be made almost entirely from asset monetisation (despite a liquidity-starved environment), and operational cash flows (in an operating environment beset by procedural and regulatory hurdles).
“The continuing total apathy and lack of any support whatsoever from the financial system” ultimately “hurt” the interests of lenders themselves as well as all other stakeholders, he said.