Liberty House Assembles Team to Bid for Tata Steel’s UK Biz
Wants to close deal fast and is aiming for a quick turnaround
Mumbai: Sanjeev Gupta wants to strike a deal quickly on Tata Steel’s UK assets with the sale process all set to kick off on Monday. Toward this end, the Gupta-led Liberty House is putting together a panel with the aim of acquiring Tata Steel’s Port Talbot plant in Wales and processing operations elsewhere in the UK.
Mallya, who left India for the UK in March, has separately been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate to appear on April 9 to answer questions related to accusations of money laundering.
The banks told SC on Thursday that they rejected an offer made last week worth up to Rs 6,000 crore and then a revised one made on Wednesday for Rs 6,400 crore. “We have rejected the settlement out of hand after a meeting of the consortium (of banks),” their lawyer Shyam Divan said.
Mallya had last week offered to pay Rs 2,000 crore immediately, another Rs 2,000 crore by September-end to be raised by selling stakes in United Breweries and a further Rs 2,000 crore should the defunct airline win a case against a foreign enginemaker. The offer had subsequently been raised to Rs 6,400 crore.
Divan left the door open for further negotiations, saying the way forward would be for Mallya to reveal his assets and deposit a substantial sum of money with the court to prove his bona fides.
“There ought to be a full and fair disclosure of his assets so we can make a reasonable assessment of what we need to do,” Divan told the bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and RF Nariman. “Any offer cannot be based on contingencies,” he said, alluding to the rejected offers.
A negotiated settlement is always better than a convoluted legal recovery process, he said. “He should bring down a substantial amount (to the court) so we can move forward,” Divan said, adding Mallya’s presence would speed up matters. “At this stage, his presence would only accelerate the process, (it) will help in resolution,” he said, so that an “effective dialogue” can be had. He said the banks had no quibble with a September 30 deadline for repaying the dues. “If all the loans can be liquidated by a reasonable horizon, it will help us all,” he said.
Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for Mallya, did not resist the demand for a full disclosure of assets. He said Mallya had made such a statement in 2010 and that this could be updated and filed. He did, however, oppose the demand by the banks that the assets of Mallya’s wife and children be revealed, but this was included in the order at the insistence of Justice Nariman.
Vaidyanathan also said Mallya was not averse to paying dues but that he did not have the cash. “There is no liquid money. Everything is tied up. We will need a court order to pay,” he said, possibly referring to the fact that most of his assets have been frozen by some judicial forum or the other.
The lawyer urged the court not to pass any order insisting on Mallya’s presence at the hearing for now, saying that there were some difficulties on that front without elaborating. He, however, assured the court that he would have something more specific on this matter by the next hearing.