Essar Steel resolution may drag as ArcelorMittal seeks immunity

Suresh P Iyengar Mumbai | Updated on December 04, 2019

Parth Jindal, the scion of JSW Group, would have never imagined that ArcelorMittal will be such a fast learner.

In an interview with Business Line recently, Jindal said when he called Aditya (Mittal, son of ArcelorMittal promoter Lakshmi Mittal) over phone to congratulate him on acquisition of Essar Steel, he told that in India they will learn from JSW Steel.

A fortnight later, ArcelorMittal has moved the government seeking immunity for the Essar Steel asset from the ongoing cases against its promoters Ruias. The plea is similar to that of JSW Steel which is seeking immunity in the case of its acquisition of Bhushan Power and Steel (BPSL).

The Enforcement Directorate has attached the properties of BPSL promoters including that of the factory under Prevention of Money Laundering Act. It has refused to lift the attachment despite the NCLAT direction.

Fearing a similar action in the cases involving Ruias, ArcelorMittal has approached various ministries including law, finance and home for some assurance that the Essar Steel assets will be kept out of investigations.

The development is likely to further delay closure of Essar Steel resolution as ArcelorMittal may wait for the outcome of the case filed by JSW Steel in NCLAT before making the final payment of ₹42,000 crore. Legal fraternity believe that the case may finally land in the Supreme Court, with the Enforcement Directorate questioning the jurisdiction of NCLAT to lift a freeze on property attached under PMLA.

Slurry pipeline issue

In the meanwhile, the tussle hots up for takeover of Odisha Slurry Pipeline Infrastructure which owns the crucial 253-km pipeline that carries iron ore slurry from Debuna in Odisha to Paradip where it is converted into pellets before being shipped to Essar Steel plant at Hazira in Gujarat.

Essar Steel being taken over by ArcelorMittal owns 30.19 per cent stake in Odisha Slurry Pipeline Infrastructure while the rest is with an alternative investment fund -- India Growth Opportunity Fund (IGOF) -- backed by Srei Multiple Asset Investment Trust.

IGOF has now written a letter to committee of creditors to abort the insolvency proceedings against the slurry pipeline company as ArcelorMittal has to pay ₹720 crore annually under the prevailing right to use agreement.

The RTU pact is enough to pay the entire outstanding of financial creditors along with interest to its stakeholders, said IOGF which had invested ₹ 60 crore in equity while Srei has a claim of ₹550 crore.

On the other hand, bankers seems to be tilted towards ArcelorMittal's offer to pay the entire ₹2,350 crore outstanding of the company.

Published on December 04, 2019

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