Some mutual fund companies which had lent to Zee (Essel) Group entities are holding back payments due to investors in their fixed maturity plans (FMP). Many FMPs due for maturity are not able to repay the full amount because of the delay in recovery from Zee Group. Investors in six FMPs of Kotak MF will not be able to redeem the entire maturity value. HDFC Mutual Fund has also informed investors its plan to extend the tenure for one of its FMPs coming up for maturity by another year.
Is my money lost or will it be recovered later?
Investors in affected FMPs of Kotak MF will receive part payment of maturity proceeds for now. They will get the value of the other holdings in the FMP (maturity amount minus value of holdings in Zee Group). The remaining amount may be paid when the fund house recovers money from the companies. In case of the HDFC MF FMP that matured on 15 April, investors can either agree to extension in maturity date or exit on the prevailing maturity date. For investors who exit, units will be redeemed at applicable NAV on existing maturity date. They will get the amount minus the value of holdings in Zee. Investors who agree to extend maturity date may recover the entire amount, provided the entities repay the debt.
Are all FMPs in trouble?
Apart from Kotak MF and HDFC MF, several fund companies have exposure to debt instruments of the Zee Group. Most such FMPs are from the stables of Kotak MF, HDFC MF, Aditya Birla Sun Life MF and Reliance MF. FMPs coming up for maturity are likely to either roll over the maturity date or delay payments to investors. In some schemes, exposure to Zee Group entities is as high as 20% of the scheme corpus. Investors in these schemes will take a hit.
Why are MFs not recovering the money?
Fund houses had lent to the Zee Group entities against the collateral of shares of Zee Entertainment Enterprises. When lending against pledged shares, MFs typically enter into covenants with the borrower (issuer of the debt instruments). The issuer agrees to pledge shares worth up to 1.5-2 times the loan value. If price of the shares drops sharply, MFs typically ask the borrower to top up the pledged shares to cover the shortfall. If not, they can recover the money by selling the pledged shares. In this case, however, most fund houses have not invoked the covenants. They have entered into a standstill agreement with the group promoter till September 2019. By this time, the promoter has promised to sell stake in a few key group companies and repay the debt. The fund houses have agreed not to invoke the pledge to prevent further drop in share price and avoid hurting sale prospects.
What can I do now?
Investors in closed-ended FMPs cannot exit during the scheme's tenure. While these are listed on exchanges and are therefore, tradeable, the trading volumes are very poor. This limits the investor’s ability to exit the scheme at a fair price. In such a case, it is better to agree to the rollover when the fund house offers it. This gives the investor a chance to get back the full amount on maturity otherwise, the investor will have to take a haircut. If the fund house is part-paying on maturity, investors have no option but to wait for the recovery of the remaining amount.
Does this make FMPs a bad investment?
No, it doesn’t. But it should remind investors of the credit risk prevalent in FMPs, just like any other debt fund. FMPs do not carry interest rate risk unlike open-ended debt funds but they do carry default risk. If the credit profile of the scheme portfolio is poor, there is a chance of default in some securities. Do not blindly invest in an FMP based on any indicative yield suggested by the distributor or adviser either. Higher yield comes at the cost of low-rated or poor quality securities. Being a closed-ended fund, there is no way investors get to know what companies the FMP will invest in. At best, investors may opt for FMPs offered by pedigreed fund houses with a proven track record in managing debt funds.