SEBI should probe deeper in front running by Lamby as nexus emerges
Front running by people with knowledge is a common thing and there have been many such cases in the stock market concerning the same. When this is done by someone as influential as a fund manager and he is asked to disgorge illegal gains, it hurts even more.
This is because while the disgorgement is of gains made by the individual, the disgorged funds are deposited in the coffers of the regulator, not the unit holders of the scheme where the fund manager was managing business. It is these people who have been wronged and money made of them.
Two fund managers of Axis Mutual Fund were sacked/terminated by the management of Axis after investigating them for roughly three months. Market grapevine says that one of the two fund managers came into public limelight because he drove a fancy top-end car from Lamborghini. This car is apparently not in the fund manager’s name for obvious reasons. It is in the name of an NBFC which is into leasing or lending against cars. Whether they have other such cars in their portfolio remains unknown. This NBFC is floated by a leading stock broking firm.
The question that comes to mind is, what was the relationship of the fund manager with this broking outfit? Was it just a normal borrower-lender relationship or went beyond that? If so, was a trading account in the names of the beneficiaries of the fund manager maintained here? If so, was this company/entity a partner in crime or only a facilitator?
There are so many questions which remain unanswered at this point of time. It becomes the duty of Axis Bank and its key functionaries to clear all these doubts before the matter picks up steam and leads to a cascading nature. The buck cannot stop with just two fund managers being involved, there have to be more heads which need to roll.
For the uninitiated, the word insider trading means “the illegal practice of trading on the stock exchange to one’s own advantage through having access to confidential information”. Front running means “the practice by market-makers of dealing on advance information provided by their brokers and investment analysts, before their clients have been given the information”. While the words are intertwined, they have a lot of similarities and differences. The fund managers indulged in front running by leaking information on their trades to associates for personal benefit.
It was time SEBI took strict action and started reimbursing the money collected through disgorgement to the benefit of unit holders of respective schemes as they are the people who have been cheated.
Opening Bell: Markets Trade Flat Amid Mixed Global Cues; Sensex At 63,182.52, Nifty At 18,738.55
The markets on Thursday morning were trading flat with Sensex at 63,182.52, up by 39.56 points and Nifty was at 18,738.55 with a gain of 12.15 points. Nestle, Tata Motors, NTPC, Bharti Airtel and Power Grid were the top gainers in the morning session whereas Kotak Bank, Axis Bank, TCS, Hindustan Unilever and Tata Steel were the top losers.
Markets on Wednesday
The markets on Wednesday closed higher for the fourth straight session with Sensex at 63,142.96, up by 350.08 and Nifty at 18,726.40 with a gain of 127.40 points. All sectors were in the green with FMCG, Power, oil and gas, capital goods, realty and metal up by 1 per cent each.
Ahead of key economic and policy events next week the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 91.74 points to 33,665.02. However, the S&P 500 dropped by 16.33 at 4,267.52 and Nasdaq ended lower at 13,104.90 down by 171.52 points.
The Asian stock markets on Thursday were mixed with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was at 19,227.84 with a loss of 24.16 points, South Korea’s KOSPI was relatively flat at 2,610.52 with a dip of 5.08 points and Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 6.83 points at 32,906.91. However, Singapore’s SGX Nifty was higher with a gain of 11 points at 18,823.
After oil prices saw a jump of 1 per cent on Wednesday, they were relatively stable on Thursday as investors took into consideration the increasing demand concerns over a global economic slowdown in the backdrop of expected fall in supply from Saudi output cuts. Brent crude futures were down 1 cents at $76.94 per barrel and US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $72.58 per barrel with a gain of 11 cents.
Adani Groups Repays Loans Worth $2.65 Billion, Along With Interest Payment Of $203 Million
Embattled Adani Group on Monday said it has repaid loans aggregating USD 2.65 billion to complete a prepayment programme to cut overall leverage in an attempt to win back investor trust post a damning report of a US short seller. In a Credit Note released on Monday, Adani Group said it has made a full prepayment of USD 2.15 billion of loans that were taken by pledging shares in the conglomerate’s listed firms and also another USD 700 million in loans taken for the acquisition of Ambuja Cement.
Interest Payment of $203 Million
“The prepayment was done along with interest payment of USD 203 million,” it added. Further, the credit update states that the promoters completed the sale of shares in four listed group entities to GQG Partners, a leading global investment firm, for USD 1.87 billion (Rs 15,446 crore).
“The deleveraging programme testifies to the strong liquidity management and capital access at sponsor level even in volatile market conditions, supplementing the solid capital prudence adopted at all portfolio companies,” Adani Group said in the credit update. US short-seller Hindenburg Research in January released a damning report alleging accounting fraud and stock price manipulation at Adani Group, triggering a stock market rout that had erased about USD 145 billion in the conglomerate’s market value at its lowest point.
Adani Group’s Comeback Strategy
Adani Group has denied all allegations by Hindenburg and is plotting a comeback strategy. The group has recast its ambitions as well as prepaid some loans to assuage investors. The credit update further highlights major improvements in key financial metrics – the portfolio’s combined Net Debt to EBITDA ratio has decreased from 3.81 in FY22 to 3.27 in FY23, run rate EBITDA surged from Rs 50,706 crore in FY22 to Rs 66,566 crore in FY23.
The credit update further states that the banking lines of Adani Group continue to show confidence by disbursing new debt and rolling over existing lines of credit. Moreover, rating agencies both domestic and international rating agencies have reaffirmed their ratings in all the group companies.
Debt Service Cover Ratio (DSCR) has improved to 2.02x during FY23 from 1.47x during FY22. Gross Assets increased to Rs 4.23 lakh crore, up by Rs 1.06 lakh crore. Gross Asset / Net Debt cover has improved to 2.26x in FY23 from 1.98x in FY22.
Continued investments in core infra projects
Continued investments in core infra with gross assets of Rs 3.77 lakh crore (89 per cent of the portfolio) provide long-term multi-decadal visibility of cash flow, it said, adding cash balance was higher by 41.5 per cent at Rs 40,351 crore against Rs 28,519 crore. Free Flow from operations – FFO – (EBITDA less finance cost less tax paid) was Rs 37,538 crore.
Cash Balance and FFO (together at Rs 77,889 crore) are much higher than debt maturity cover for FY24, FY25 and FY26 of Rs 11,796 crore, Rs 32,373 crore and Rs 16,614 crore, respectively, at the combined portfolio level.
How Ruias are reinventing the Essar Group
For the last three years, the Mumbai headquartered Essar Group, founded by Shashi and Ravi Ruia, has deliberately kept a low profile. They were busy putting into action their deleveraging and monetisation strategy to free the group of all its debt and start on a clean state.
And they managed to do just that by monetising assets worth $25 bn by selling Essar Oil, Essar Steel, Essar Power and Essar Ports. Perhaps, for the first time in the country such huge debts have been paid off by a business house.
Leading from the front is the 54-year old Prashant Ruia, director, Essar Capital. He is working at a feverish pace to take the group to the next level. Between June 2022 and March 2023 the group made several big announcements. The group, it seems, is now approaching all its businesses with the mindset of a PE player.
According to sources, “The group has paid off 100% debt. Basically, the group has put in place the strategy of deleveraging and monetisation of assets, consolidation of operating companies, and getting into a new growth cycle.” And that is paying rich dividends.
Now with all debts paid, the mood at the Essar House is upbeat. The group has chalked up ambitious plans to be in the same areas where they have domain expertise. It will be Energy, Infrastructure & Logistics, Metals & Mining, and Technology & Retail.
To go with it, the group has identified three themes: Decarbonisation, Decentralisation and Digitisation. For instance, decarbonisation means the group wants to move away from fossil fuel to green fuel. To make this happen, Essar Oil UK, a 10 MTPA refinery acquired in 2011 which serves 16% of UK’s road fuel demand has entered into an agreement with Vertex Hydrogen. Vertex is part of Essar Energy Transition which is planning an investment of $3.6 bn in India ($1.2 bn) and the UK ($2.4 bn) to develop a range of low carbon energy transition projects which would include blue and green hydrogen, biofuels, battery storage, solar PV etc.
The investment in the UK will play a key role in supporting their government’s decarbonisation strategy.
Essar 2.0 sees the group focusing on transitioning existing assets to green businesses, while investing in creating new-age ESG-centric sustainable businesses.
Besides oil refineries and storage terminals in the UK, it has exploration and production facilities in Vietnam; Iron ore plant in USA, coal mine in Indonesia. It has entered into an agreement with Saudi Arabia to set up a 4 MTPA greenfield steel plant in Ras Al-Khair. In India, it has plans to set up 14 MTPA iron ore pellet plants close to Paradip port, Odisha and triple its CBM productions in West Bengal.
Essar Group which currently has a turnover of $15 bn and $1 bn profit will see most of its new initiatives becoming operational by December 2025 or early 2026. Looks like the second innings of the Ruias will be better than the first.
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