Another mammoth 'public issue', this time by Subrata Roy's Sahara staff

fe Bureau Posted online: Saturday, Mar 29, 2014 at 0000 hrs
New Delhi : Despite the Sahara Group’s run-in with the Securities and Exchange Board of India over whether it required permission to raise Rs 19,400 crore from the public, its employees appear to be attempting another mammoth fund-raising exercise — the management, however, says the initiative does not have its backing.

Unlike the last offer, which was an optionally fully convertible debenture, the current exercise calls for “contributions” without mentioning what type of instrument it is — technically, this may take this out of the purview of both Sebi and the Reserve Bank of India. Sebi officials said they would look into the scheme announced by the Sahara employees.

A letter written by DK Srivastav, executive director, parabanking — a copy of which is with FE — has appealed to co-workers to collect amounts of R1 lakh and above through the Saharayn E-Multi Purpose Society as soon as possible so that R5,000 crore can be deposited with the Supreme Court to secure the release of Sahara chief Subrata Roy.

Several such letters have been written by Sahara employees. The court had set Rs 10,000 crore as the amount to be posted as bail for his release, half of which has to be paid in cash with the other half in the form of a bank guarantee from a nationalised bank.

When contacted, a senior Sahara official told FE such letters had been written by Sahara employees in their personal capacity, albeit on a company letterhead. The official said the letter had since been retracted but did not produce any letter of retraction despite having said he would.

According to Sebi rules, reiterated by the regulator in the Sahara case, any raising of funds from more than 50 persons amounts to a public issue and, therefore, needs to be okayed by it.

Employees of the Sahara Group are understood to be distributing share application forms enabling membership of Saharayn E-Multi Purpose Society Limited. They are also understood to be distributing forms for contributing to the society.

The terms for contribution say that upon the expiry of three years from the date of making the contribution to the society, the members shall be entitled to receive a sum ranging from Rs 1,400 to Rs 1,600 per month, if the contribution is Rs 1 lakh, depending on “various business factors”. The form says additional monthly benefits based upon the performance, capacity utilisation or other relevant business factors of the relevant business centre may also be provided. “The benefits may be offered in the form of redeemable vouchers either redeemable against cash or gold, jewellery or any other product as decided and approved by the managing committee of the society.”

If the member withdraws the contribution after three years, he will be compensated with an amount not exceeding Rs 43,000, on a contribution of Rs 1 lakh, in the form of cash or cash equivalents — this effectively works out to a compounded annual interest rate of 12.5%.

A Sahara lawyer, Keshav Mohan, has also written a letter stating that an embargo has been imposed on sale of assets owned by the group, while bank accounts of entire Sahara group have already been frozen by Sebi. "If case by case the court allows to sell assets, it will be a distress sale which would not fetch more than 20-25% of the real value of the asset. Moreover, money from the sale of bigger assets will only come in long-term instalments in view of Indian financial strength," he said in a statement.

Sahara India Real Estate had floated optionally fully convertible debentures as an open-ended scheme and collected Rs 19,400,86,64,200 from March 25, 2008, to March 13, 2011. The company had a total collection of Rs 17,656,53,22,500 as on August 31, 2011, after meeting the demand for premature redemption. The above -mentioned amounts were collected from 2,21,07,271 investors.