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Fund houses flee Satyam

Anirudh Laskar in Mumbai | March 18, 2009 11:50 IST

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In December, around 22 fund houses had Rs 660 crore (Rs 6.6 billion) investments in the company through 112 schemes. Just two months later, the cumulative investments have come down to just Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million), and 20 of the fund houses have exited the company completely.

Interestingly, mutual funds had increased their holdings in the company to 38.6 million shares in December, after Satyam's [Get Quote] controversial proposal to acquire two of the promoter-family firms -- Maytas Infra and Maytas Properties -- was blocked by institutional players.

Fund managers believed then that Satyam was available cheap. However, on January 7, Ramalinga Raju delivered a fatal blow by declaring he had fudged the company's balance sheet for seven years.

The company's shares were dumped and the total holdings of mutual funds went down to mere 4.8 million at the end of January. "Panic selling took place immediately after the fraud was discovered. Almost all fund managers withdrew a majority of their investments within a week," said a chief investment officer at a large domestic fund house.

Given that there was an overwhelmingly negative outlook on the company, fund houses were unsure whether the company would survive.

Though things have improved since then, fund houses are still wary. This is clearly reflected in February when fund houses pruned their holdings further to 1.30 million shares.

This is in sharp contrast with the investment strategy of some domestic and foreign companies and institutional investors. Some of them have increased their holdings in the company in the last few months.

For instance, L&T has increased its stake to 12 per cent from 4 per cent in December. Similarly, global financial services major, Fidelity Group, increased its holding to 10.17 per cent from 3.41 per cent during the same time. Even, LIC [Get Quote] raised its stake to 4.34 per cent.

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