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Rediff.com  » Business » Mallya could lose more of United Breweries

Mallya could lose more of United Breweries

August 01, 2014 10:21 IST

Image: A file photo of UB group chairman Vijay Mallya.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters Raghuvir Badrinath in Bengaluru

Vijay Mallya, UB Group chairman who has painted himself into a corner over debts for his now-grounded Kingfisher Airlines, might be forced to shed some of his holdings in United Breweries, the maker of India’s largest-selling beer, Kingfisher.

Mallya holds a 32.86 per cent stake in United Breweries, after having ceded control to Dutch brewer Heineken in December last year.

He could lose another three per cent of his holdings, as a lender controlling 6.3 million pledged shares is seeking to recover its dues.

According to a regulatory disclosure by McDowell Holdings, a UB Group company that holds 4.05 per cent in United Breweries, it had provided corporate guarantees and created a pledge of 6.3 million shares in favour of a lender to secure debt and the total outstanding was Rs 496 crore (Rs 4.96 billion).

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Mallya could lose more of United Breweries

Image: A child sleeps at a shop selling whisky in Hanoi.
Photographs: Kham/Reuters

“Three such borrowers have committed acts of defaults and the lender has demanded repayment of a sum of Rs 337.52 crore (Rs 3.37 billion) due from them.

Simultaneously, the lender has invoked corporate guarantees and exercised its right of pledge provided by the company to realise the above dues,” McDowell Holdings said.

The company added it was negotiating with the lender to restore the facility made available to the defaulting borrowers and no action had been taken against the company.

However, UB Group executives told Business Standard it would be an uphill task to stop lenders from encashing pledged shares.

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The image is used for representational purpose only

Mallya could lose more of United Breweries

Image: A Kingfisher aircraft.
Photographs: Reuters

United Breweries, which has a market capitalisation of around Rs 18,500 crore (Rs 185 billion), is Mallya’s last bastion.

Lenders have been eyeing Mallya’s stake, worth around Rs 5,500 crore (Rs 55 billion), for a while.

In 2013, Heineken became the single largest shareholder in United Breweries after buying an additional 1.35 per cent stake from Citigroup for Rs 275 crore (Rs 2.75 billion).

Until then, Mallya and Heineken had equal holdings, of 37.49 per cent, in United Breweries, which controls over half the beer market in India.

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Mallya could lose more of United Breweries

Image: Employees of Kingfisher Airlines take part in a protest against the company in New Delhi.
Photographs: Reuters

As a three per cent stake comes under pressure from lenders, Mallya will have to ring-fence the other 23 per cent pledged by him.

He is discussing how to offload more of his holding to Heineken at a premium.

Talks have been inconclusive.

UB Group, which raised debt from a consortium of lenders for Kingfisher Airlines, faces the prospect of its corporate guarantees being encashed and pledged shares of group companies sold.

Lenders have sold Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) worth of pledged shares of United Spirits, another UB Group company now controlled by global spirits major Diageo.

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Mallya could lose more of United Breweries

Image: Vijay Mallya.
Photographs: Reuters

From a holding of 22 per cent in United Spirits, Mallya retains a little over four per cent in the leader of the spirits market in India.

The United Breweries stock lost marginally to close at Rs 705.10 on the National Stock Exchange on Thursday.

LOSING GRIP

  • 32.86%: Mallya’s stake in United Breweries
  • 25.91%: Mallya’s UB stake that has been pledged
  • 3%: UB Group companies’ stake under threat as lenders push to exercise their right of encash
  • 23%: Mallya’s UB stake that will remain pledged even after lenders have encashed 3% stake
Source: source