Essel Group promoter Subhash Chandra outside the Indian Parliament House in New Delhi. Photo: AFP

Essel Group, an Indian conglomerate with interests in media, packaging and infrastructure, claims that it has reached an understanding with its lenders over the servicing of its debt. It has also denied defaulting in the repayment of loans.

The announcement had a soothing effect on its investors as the shares of its listed company Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) rose over 9% on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Monday. However the shares of Essel’s other listed company, DishTV, continue to tank and have lost over 43% in two trading days.

The Essel Group, led by Subhash Chandra, who is also a member of the Upper House of Indian Parliament, made their announcement after the share price of ZEEL and DishTV suffered a hammering late Friday, following reports of the group’s alleged link with a company currently being investigated for money laundering.

This triggered fears that Essel’s lenders, comprising banks, mutual funds and non banking financial companies, may invoke their right to offload pledged shares by Monday.

Under the new agreement the lenders will not invoke their right to sell promoter shares of ZEEL, DishTV, and other listed group firms. The shares were pledged for the loans Essel Group promoters had taken out for their privately owned infrastructure firms.

In return the Essel Group promises to pay off its loans within three months. It plans to raise money by selling its infrastructure assets and half of the promoter’s stake in ZEEL to a strategic investor.

Chandra and his family currently hold 41% of ZEEL, which runs popular TV channel Zee TV in Hindi and has good presence in other regional language TV entertainment. Some of the suitors include Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, Amazon, Apple, Tencent and Alibaba.

Friday’s crash was triggered following a report on a news website The Wire claiming that Essel Group had links with Nityank Infrapower, which was currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office for deposits of over 30 billion rupees (US$ 421 million) made in November-December 2016, just after Narendra Modi government’s announcement banning high value currency notes on November 8, 2016.

The report also said that Nityank Infrapower was involved in a business deal between Venugopal Dhoot’s Videocon and the Essel Group in November 2016. ZEEL, in a conference call with investors, denied any link with Nityank Infrapower and claimed it has filed a defamation suit against The Wire.

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