In a pre-emptive move to avoid litigation and insolvency proceedings, IL&FS Transportation Networks (ITNL) has sought to prevent creditors of 13 of its infrastructure projects from hauling them to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The company on Monday filed an application with the Mumbai bench of the NCLT seeking relief relating to a filing for a scheme of arrangement under Section 230 of the Companies Act. The company is hoping to be able to restructure debt for the projects with the consent of the lenders.
Lawyers that FE spoke to said if creditors with an exposure value of 90% give their approval, then Section 230 of the Companies Act is automatically triggered. Mohit Chaudhary, managing partner, Kings and Alliance, explained that once Section 230 is triggered, lenders cannot take any action against the company until an agreement is hammered out.
“The idea is to get some breathing time,” Chaudhary added.
Some of the 13 projects have defaulted on their interest payments in the last three to four months, resulting in ratings downgrades. Nine of these are road projects. Three are metro projects while one is a sports and leisure complex.
The move by ITNL to garner support from creditors comes after Aditya Birla Finance, a creditor of two of ITNL’s road projects, filed an arbitration application under Section 9 of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act before the Delhi High Court. As a result, on September 21 the court barred ITNL from selling its road assets. According to sources, ITNL will continue to discuss the possibility of concluding a sale with potential buyers, and will approach the court if it reaches an agreement before December 7.
Among the road projects, ratings agency Icra downgraded ITNL’s Kiratpur Ner Chowk Expressway in July this year, citing irregularities in debt servicing. Due to significant delays in execution owing to delays in getting right of way, the project suffered cost overruns. It was dependent on ITNL, its parent company, for timely funding support to service its debt. However, Icra said the funds were not provided by ITNL in June. The total outstanding on the project was Rs 1,484 crore in July.
Similarly, Rapid Metrorail Gurgaon South was also downgraded by Icra. The project had a total outstanding debt of Rs 1,500 crore and had to dip into its debt service reserves to meet its interest payments in June.
The Reserve Bank of India has reportedly summoned IL&FS shareholders for a meeting on September 28. The central bank did not respond to an email seeking comment. The board of the parent firm, IL&FS, is set to meet for its annual general meeting on September 29 where its largest shareholder, Life Insurance Corporation of India is expected to extend it some support by subscribing to its proposed rights issue of Rs 4,500 crore.