India

India’s Supreme Court ruled that wireless carriers including Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. need to pay $13 billion of dues to the government, rejecting an appeal by operators struggling to stem losses and reduce debt, Bloomberg News reported. A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on Thursday dismissed review petitions filed by the telecommunication companies against the October verdict, according to updates on the court’s website.

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A Deutsche Bank-led consortium’s efforts to buy out the debt of a power plant operator in eastern India have advanced, after no rival bidder emerged, Bloomberg News reported. The struggling utility is Jindal India Thermal Power Ltd., one of a string of power plants being put up for sale by banks stuck with their defaulting debt. The sector has been hit hard by oversupply in recent years, a consequence of a costly push to bridge India’s once chronic power deficit and expand reach to under-supplied rural areas. Power generators form a significant chunk of India’s $130 billion bad loan pile.

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India’s Economy Faces Severe Challenges

India’s economy is experiencing a sharp slowdown — to the consternation of many observers. For several years, analysts and organisations such as the IMF and World Bank have touted India as the fastest-growing major economy, with the world’s brightest medium-term outlook, the Financial Times reported in a commentary. But in December the Reserve Bank of India, the central bank, cut its forecast for 2019 growth in gross domestic product to 5 per cent. That headline figure actually understates the slowdown.

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Bondholders of Reliance Home Finance Ltd. have petitioned India’s National Company Law Tribunal to recover 35 billion rupees ($495 million) after the firm missed payments, Economic Times reported citing a copy of the application, Bloomberg News reported. IDBI Trusteeship, which represents the bondholders, wants the tribunal to seize Reliance Home Finance’s assets and bar the company from agreeing to any debt resolution deal with other lenders. The petition was under the Companies Act and a bankruptcy application is “not actively under consideration for now,” according to the report.

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It’s the last thing India’s stricken credit markets need: a record debt bill. Companies must repay an unprecedented 5.9 trillion rupees ($83 billion) of local notes this year, just as corporate defaults spike, Bloomberg News reported. Many firms are already struggling after economic growth slumped to its weakest since 2009. That’s putting India behind China, Indonesia and a few others in the region. Credit market scares have impeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to revive growth.

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India’s shadow banks, which lend to everyone from teashop merchants to property tycoons, get a mixed bill of health in Bloomberg’s latest check, Bloomberg News reported. The sector has been stung by a crisis set off by the shock collapse of non-bank lender IL&FS group in 2018. There’ve been even more setbacks in recent weeks: Altico Capital India Ltd., a real estate-focused lender, has seen some potential rescuers demur. Revitalization of the industry, whose woes mounted last year when major mortgage lender Dewan Housing Finance Corp.

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The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has ordered insolvency resolution process against a company, in probably the first such case in India where the petitioner that approached the bankruptcy court alleging payment default is a firm that had earlier provided it services on insolvency resolution, The Economic Times reported.

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Religare Finvest Ltd., an Indian financier sanctioned by the nation’s central bank, is “hopeful” of revamping 58.5 billion rupees ($815 million) of debt by March, the shadow lender said, Bloomberg News reported. Religare is in talks with its creditors to retain 51% of the obligations as that can be serviced by the company’s cash flows, while tagging the rest as “unsustainable debt,” the company said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. The firm expects to pay the principal on the “unsustainable” loans over a period of time, Religare said without giving a time frame.

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A ministerial panel headed by home minister Amit Shah on Tuesday approved the drafts of expression of interest (EoI) and share purchase agreement (SPA) for the privatisation of debt-ridden Air India, but analysts were still sceptical about the deal being concluded in the current financial year, The Financial Express reported. The EoI will be issued later this month. The AI Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM) headed by Shah also approved a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) as well as another debt restructuring plan for the airline, sources said, without elaborating.

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The race to find a rescuer for a struggling Indian shadow bank at the center of an industry crisis has narrowed, Bloomberg News reported. Altico Capital India Ltd. is one of the latest caught up in the nation’s shadow banking crisis that started in 2018, and had been courting suitors. One of them, Kotak Investment Advisors Ltd., won’t make a binding bid for Altico by a Jan. 15 deadline, people familiar with the matter said. In India, non-bank financiers play a crucial role in funding everything from condominium construction to purchases of personal goods like cars and phones.

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