Financial services major Srei group plans to liquidate its Rs 430 crore loan exposure to Kingfisher Airlines soon after closure of a proposed majority takeover of another UB Group firm United Spirits by Diageo.

Srei Venture Capital, part of the Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd, last year acquired loans worth Rs 430 crore given by ICICI Bank to the UB group’s battered airline venture.

“The security value (of the loan) has substantially risen and we are well covered. It was not a stupid decision which everyone thought it was,” Srei Chairman and Managing Director Hemant Kanoria told PTI.

Both Kingfisher Airlines and United Spirits Ltd (USL) are part of Vijay Mallya-led UB Group and a number of loans availed by the debt-ridden air carrier are backed by shares and other assets of various group companies, including USL.

The group has reached an agreement with UK-based global liquor giant Diageo for sale of a majority 53.4 per cent stake in USL for about $2 billion. As part of the deal, Diageo may also acquire USL shares pledged with various lenders.

“The loans (of Kingfisher) that were bought are well secured. So as and when the United Spirits—Diageo transactions goes through, we will liquidate that,” Kanoria said.

In a sharp rally, the USL shares have almost doubled in value over the past six months and more than tripled over a period of the past one year.

The Diageo deal is currently in the process of completion and has been cleared by regulators like CCI and SEBI. The deal includes an open offer for purchase of 26 per cent stake from non-promoters.

Burdened under huge debts of about Rs 8,000 crore and a similar amount of accumulated losses, Kingfisher Airlines had to stop its operations in October last year. ICICI Bank was one of the major lenders to the airline, but it recovered its entire Kingfisher debt by selling that to Srei group in July 2012 along with the collaterals provided for the loan.

(This article was published on March 10, 2013)
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