India’s Top Court Puts Essar Steel Sale to Arcelor On Hold

(Bloomberg) -- India’s top court temporarily put ArcelorMittal’s $6.1 billion purchase of Essar Steel India Ltd. on hold, after the mill’s lenders sought to annul a lower court ruling that split sale proceeds proportionately among all creditors.

The Supreme Court on Monday admitted financial lenders’ appeal against a bankruptcy court ruling that put secured creditors like banks at par with operational creditors, or suppliers to the plants. It also said it would resolve issues arising from the Essar verdict expeditiously and fix an early date for hearing the case.

Financial creditors had said the bankruptcy court’s ruling to modify the distribution of proceeds would lead to higher lending rates and increased risk of capital. The ruling will also deter foreign investments into India’s soured debt, Hong Kong-based SC Lowy said. India is trying to attract foreign capital to its bad loan cleanup, as it battles the worst nonperforming loan ratio among the world’s major economies.

ArcelorMittal has been fighting a legal battle for over a year to enter India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is investing trillions of rupees in infrastructure. A lower court had earlier approved Arcelor and its partner Nippon Steel Corp.’s offer to pay 420 billion rupees in cash to creditors and pump in another 80 billion rupees in the country’s fourth-largest steel mill. The payment was halted by Supreme Court in April after a dispute between lenders on the distribution on funds.

Earlier this month, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal allowed ArcelorMittal’s purchase of Essar Steel, while modifying the distribution of the proceeds. The ruling stated that financial lenders will get 60.7% of their claims, and operational creditors will also get around 60% on a pro-rata basis.

In addition to banks, the ruling was also challenged by Arcelor as it was asked to part with the around 40 billion rupees of profits that the steel mill generated during the bankruptcy resolution process. The Supreme Court on Monday also admitted Arcelor’s appeal against the bankruptcy court ruling.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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