As India tackles its bad loans problem, large local groups and global funds are gaining advantage

By March, seven companies had evinced interest in buying Lanco Infratech.

The company began life in 1986 as a construction contractor, but grew into a power and infrastructure behemoth after liberalisation. Much of this growth was funded by bank loans. In June 2017, after missing its loan repayments, the company found itself on the Reserve Bank of India’s first list of defaulting companies that would have to face insolvency proceedings. At the time, Lanco Infratech owed Rs 45,200 crore to banks and another Rs 5,300 crore to its business partners.

The list of companies that queued up to buy the infrastructure firm was intriguing. There were seven large bidders, four of them from outside India. They operated in disparate fields from international finance and energy to mining and real estate.

Lanco Infratech illustrates a broad pattern that is becoming apparent as India’s National Company Law Tribunal tries to recover bad loans from companies. The tribunal is selling these companies in whole or auctioning off their parts. Alongside, some companies are making their own attempts to reduce debt by selling off some of their units. Through this process, a small group of Indian and foreign companies are taking most of the assets on sale.

Out today, the second part of our series on India’s hugely important insolvency series. This one looks at the folks buying up stranded assets in india.


India’s bid to fix bad loan crisis is reshaping its corporate sector – and creating new challenges

After a long break, I finally — and rather sulkily — resumed work in the middle of August. Out today, the first of my trademark long-winded and tremendously depressing series: on how India’s business insolvency cases are coming along. The series — it is a four-parter — essentially argues that India needs to pay far closer attention to how these insolvency cases are faring, that these are taking the country into uncharted waters. For more, click here.


The MJ Akbar playbook: Men look back at how he preyed on women colleagues in newsrooms and got away

It’s a case that is being described as “India’s Women vs MJ Akbar”. Beginning with veteran journalist Priya Ramani, 16 women have gone public this month with sexual harassment allegations against former Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar. After Akbar filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani, 17 more women who worked in a newspaper he had founded put out a statement accusing the journalist-turned-politician of encouraging a culture of misogyny and harassment. In the outpouring, one set of voices has been largely missing: where are the men?

The stories of Akbar’s predatory behaviour that have now emerged span three decades. They start with The Telegraph, a newspaper he founded in 1982, grow more frequent during his years at The Asian Age, another paper he established, and spill all the way into his last journalistic job at the India Today, which ended in 2014. Over the course of his decades in journalism, Akbar worked with numerous men and women. If everyone knew about his behaviour, how come no one brought it up earlier? And why, even now, does it seem like it is largely the women who are speaking up about what Akbar did?

Reported for this story on MJ Akbar, an editor outed in India’s #MeToo protests, for this report by my fab colleague Rohan Venkataramakrishnan.

Modi is right. Amul was indeed an inspiring success story (but it’s all going wrong now)

Dairy cooperative Amul came in for high praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

Talking to a gathering of farmers after inaugurating the cooperative’s new chocolate factory in Anand in Gujarat, Modi said the organisation represents a viable alternative to capitalism and socialism. According to a report in The Hindu, he also said, “It fills me with pride that it is the result of a farmers’ cooperative movement of over seven decades that Amul has become an identity, inspiration and necessity in the country.”

What does one make of these words? Several publications, including Scroll.in, have reported on the rot setting into Amul, one of independent India’s greatest achievements. The latest instance of institutional decay came in March when K Rathnam, managing director of the first Amul milk union, Kaira Union, resigned after some members of the union’s board alleged a Rs 450-crore scam had unfolded during his three-year tenure….

after a long break, i am back at work. out today, this quick and dirty opinion piece drawing together most of scroll’s reports on amul.