Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra on Tuesday claimed he has navigated the diversified business out of its financial stress caused due to indebtedness, and announced a new digital video venture.
In an open letter, he said the group has come out of the "financial stress" situation by settling 91.2 percent of its total debt to 43 lenders in 110 accounts, specifying that 88.3 percent has been paid, while the remaining 2.9 percent is in the process of being disbursed.
Apologising to creditors for the hardships caused, Chandra said there is one lender where there are wide differences over the dues owed and the same is being resolved in court. He exuded confidence that the group will repay all the debt owed by the end of the fiscal.
The assertion comes 30 months after Chandra had alleged sabotage to hammer down stock prices in flagship Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL). Chandra, who had diversified aggressively into many sectors, was looking at selling the promoter stake in the company to pare down high debt, which was pegged at over Rs 11,000 crore. The liquidity crisis triggered after the IL&FS collapse was cited as a key reason for the stress, as the group companies could not rollover their debt in time to meet obligations. Just as the promoters were getting ready to sell their stakes, there was massive selling in the stock, pulling the prices down, which led Chandra to allege sabotage and seek time from lenders.
On Tuesday, Chandra said he exited/sold the businesses of infrastructure, financial services and print media to ensure that he could repay the outstanding debt. "I have no regrets for parting with a substantial ownership in the business and specially in the 'jewels of the crown'. This was done to keep the family's honour," he noted. Even now, a few group companies like Zee Learn, SITI Networks and Zee Media Corporation continue to face lack of capital and are passing through a "difficult phase of their existence", he said.
Chandra also apologized to his brother Jawahar Goel, saying the latter's company Dish TV India is also suffering and losing its base because of him while not at fault.
Giving out a peek into what awaits, he announced a new venture focused on the digital video space which will not be in conflict with ZEEL. "I have earned a fair experience in the video business; hence I am exploring new ways / business opportunities in the 'video in digital space' as well as AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) in the video space, without getting into any conflicts with ZEEL, in any manner," he said.
Stating that it will be a "pioneering venture", Chandra said the specifics of the business will be shared "very soon". He also promised to keep everyone informed on the closure of the outstanding issues. "…beyond the payment effected/committed/agreed to pay, I am in no position to pay additional sums of monies, from my own/personal resources, as I do not own/possess any assets/wealth besides what I have disposed off to discharge our obligations," he added.
"With text inputs from PTI"