Altico and Mashreq approach RBI against HDFC Bank
Altico Capital had early last month said it defaulted on an interest payment to Mashreq Bank.
HDFC Bank, which also had lent money to Altico, debited about Rs 200 crore from its account by using a general lien, two people with the direct knowledge of the matter told ET. Altico and Mashreq claimed that the money was transferred from the Rs 650 crore ECB that the non-banking finance company had availed of from the Dubai-based lender and kept at HDFC Bank, they said.
Altico had early last month said it defaulted on an interest payment to Mashreq Bank. More than a week prior to that, India Ratings had downgraded the NBFC to A+ from AA-, citing challenges in its focus sector of real estate, following which HDFC Bank debited the amount. The company has since been downgraded to the ‘junk’ status by ratings firms.
“Both Mashreq and Altico have complained to the RBI citing specific provisions of ECB master directions,” said one of the people.
They claimed that the fund was placed in HDFC Bank as it was an authorised ECB dealer and that this account did not come under the general covenant. The local bank’s decision to transfer money from account may be a violation of the RBI's end-use rule, they said.
The RBI, HDFC Bank, Altico Capital and Mashreq Bank did not reply to ET’s emails seeking comment until press time Friday.
According to the RBI’s master circular on ECB, borrowers are “allowed to park ECB proceeds in term deposits with AD (authorised dealer) Category I banks in India for a maximum period of 12 months cumulatively. These term deposits should be kept in unencumbered position”.
As per RBI rules, ECB proceeds meant for rupee expenditure should be repatriated immediately for credit to their rupee accounts with AD Category I banks in India.
About three weeks ago, State Bank of India chairman Rajnish Kumar criticised a “selfish" private sector bank for the developments at Altico, saying that unilateral moves by such lenders to secure their money could trigger troubles to the wider financial system.
“You have taken care of the Rs 50-100 crore (exposure), and felt happy for saving your money, but if you are damaging the system, then it is not proper," Kumar was quoted as saying. He didn’t name the PSB.
Altico is backed by foreign investors including Clearwater Capital, Abu Dhabi Investment Council and Varde Partners. The NBFC got into trouble in September after it failed to pay Rs 19.97 crore in interest on a loan obtained from Mashreq Bank despite having sufficient funds.
Around mid-September, India Ratings and CARE cut Altico’s creditworthiness to the ‘junk’ category. In its rating rationale, India Ratings cited the deteriorating operating environment for real-estate players, dilution in liquidity buffers and a concentrated loan book with high single-party exposure.
About two dozen lenders are involved in Altico and they are now meeting to work on a resolution plan.
They have also reached out to four global investors offering controlling stake, a move that will bring fresh lease of life to the company.