Winsome lenders split over recovery process

Written by Vishwanath Nair | Aftab Ahmed | Mumbai/New Delhi | Updated: Oct 5 2013, 09:25am hrs
The lenders to Winsome Diamonds are split on how to proceed on the R6,000-crore dues to the 15-bank consortium. While the consortium leader Punjab National Bank (PNB) is still open to restructuring the loan, others like Central Bank of India want the recovery process to begin immediately.

At the last meeting of the Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) cell, PNB asked the other banks for another six to seven days before a final call was taken. In the meantime, the bank has sought further details from the forensic investigation committee, set up to look into the account. According to a source, PNB wants additional details to confirm any mischievous dealings. Meanwhile, the company's debt-restructuring proposal has been rejected by the CDR cell.

We have to initiate recovery measures and hope to take a decision in six or seven days once the extra information from the forensic audit team comes in, a Central Bank of India official told FE. However, the official conceded that the consortium's ability to recover from the company was very low.

At R1,800 crore, PNB has by far the largest exposure to the crisis-ridden company. Canara Bank and Central Bank of India have R800 crore and R600 crore of exposure, respectively.

On Thursday, Winsome Diamonds in a statement to the BSE denied that funds were siphoned off from the company.

But the company said the restructuring via the CDR was not accepted by bankers as the company could not fulfill certain conditions like bringing in Rs 250 crore from the Winsome Group promoters.

Last month, FE had reported that bankers could write off the entire loan instead of restructuring, as Winsome promoters were unable to bring in the required contribution. Lenders had also insisted that promoter Jatin Mehta, who had stepped down as chairman last year, return to the board, but he has not done so.

The jewellery exporter's case was referred to the CDR cell on June 17 as it was unable to honour its debt repayment obligations to the banks.

The consortium of 15 banks could lose most of money as approximately 95% of the loan is believed to be secured by the companys receivables and only 5% is understood to be backed by mortgage of properties. Customers owe Winsome $875 million and group company Forever Diamonds close to $385 million. Winsome defaulted on its loan obligations after customers failed to pay their dues. The lenders had given stand-by letters of credit (SBLCs) in favour of international bullion banks like Standard Chartered of London, Standard Bank of South Africa, and Scotiabank, who have encashed these LCs after Winsome failed to pay them.

Representatives from PNB, Union Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Canara Bank and Standard Chartered flew to Dubai to find out if the jewellery company's customers had really defaulted, or if the funds were siphoned off. They also conducted a forensic audit recently, and most lenders are not convinced that it gave a clean chit to the company with respect to utilisation of funds.