Insolvency process: Essar Steel litigation delays Uttam Galva resolution

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Worried over an inordinate delay in the resolution of Essar Steel’s debt, Indian lenders are taking legal opinion on how to settle the Rs 60-billion debt of Uttam Galva Steels (UGSL). Insolvency proceedings of UGSL is pending before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in Mumbai since December last.  

The delay in UGSL resolution is because ArcelorMittal, a co-promoter till February this year, has promised to repay the debt, provided it wins the race for another bankrupt company — Essar Steel.

ArcelorMittal was holding a 29 per cent stake in Uttam Galva Steel till February this year and was deemed ineligible by the resolution professional of Essar Steel to bid for Essar Steel as UGSL was a bank defaulter. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) law debars defaulters to bid for any bankrupt company in India. The Essar Steel matter is pending in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) after ArcelorMittal appealed. This case has also delayed the resolution of UGSL, say bankers.

According to a source close to the development, banks don’t want to wait indefinitely for the resolution of UGSL as the Essar Steel case is expected to be appealed before the Supreme Court by both or either of the bidders -- Numetal Mauritius and ArcelorMittal – if their bids are rejected by the NCLAT.  

In March this year, State Bank of India did not agree to a one-time settlement application filed by Uttam Galva Steels promoters at 50 per cent haircut. “The possibility of an out-of-court settlement is also being discussed to with lawyers to resolve the long-pending cases,” said a banker asking not to be quoted. 

Besides, in May this year, UGSL promoters said they were unaware of the reported unsolicited move by ArcelorMittal to transfer about Rs 70 billion to SBI to clear overdue loans of the company.

The NCLT, meanwhile, has admitted two of UGSL’s subsidiaries – Uttam Value Steels and Uttam Galva Metallics — for debt resolution on June 26 and July 12, respectively. 

This was after Uttam Value Steels defaulted to Rs 32 billion of bank loans, while Uttam Galva Metallics did not repay bank dues worth Rs 22 billion. The three Uttam Galva group companies have dues worth Rs 11.2 billion. JSW Steel has said it would bid for Uttal Galva Steel’s assets.

The litigation over the 40-odd cases referred by the Reserve Bank of India in June and December last year has already delayed the debt resolution of bankrupt companies. 

Even in the cases where the bankrupt company has been taken over by a bidder, the bank’s recovery is between 20 and 35 per cent of the dues. In most cases, operational creditors and suppliers have been left in the lurch, prompting them to move courts to recover their dues.

In many cases, the resolution professionals interpreted the IBC 2016 differently, leading to a slew of litigation across NCLT benches. Of the first 12 cases identified by the RBI for resolution of debt under the IBC, banks have approved a resolution plan fund for Bhushan Steel from Tata Steel. But this case has also been litigated by L&T, an operational creditor, which has sought its Rs 9 billion dues from the company. The NCLAT is also re-examining Tata Steel’s eligibility for acquisition of Bhushan Steel.

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