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Over 91% of debt to lenders settled, says Essel Group’s Subhash Chandra

Subhash Chandra, Chairman, Essel Group, on Tuesday said that he has settled over 91 per cent of his debt to lenders and now plans to explore new business opportunities in the video digital space.

“I am happy to report that we have come out of the financial stress situation by settling 91.2 per cent of our total debt to 43 lenders in 110 accounts. 88.3 per cent amount has been paid, while the remaining 2.9 per cent is in the process of being paid. We are making all the required efforts to settle the remaining 8.8 per cent of our total debt,” Chandra said in an open letter.

Chandra’s Essel group has been under financial stress for the past two years which forced the company to sell many of its assets, including businesses in infrastructure, renewable energy, road projects among others. Chandra had also sold a significant part of his stake in Zee Entertainment.

“I have no regrets for parting with a substantial ownership in the business and especially in the ‘jewels of the crown’. This was done to keep the family’s honour. I would like to express my sincere apologies to the lenders for the suffering they had to go through because of me,” Chandra said.

IL&FS situation
Chandra launched India’s first private Hindi channel in 1992. A series of unfortunate investments and bids led to his fall from the 27th position on Fortune’s list of Indian billionaires at $4.7 billion to a net worth of less than ₹10 crore.

“The situation became more unmanageable when the IL&FS situation came to light. The IL&FS meltdown stopped the roll overs, diminishing our ability to service our borrowings,” Chandra said in his first open letter.

A key casualty in this endeavour to settle the dues has been the loss of substantial ownership, in what Chandra considers to be the ‘crown jewels’ of his businesses, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL). Here, his personal stake has been divested down to 3.99 per cent, where he enjoyed upwards of 40 per cent ownership in 2019. Chandra has a stake of 6.10 per cent in SITI Networks Ltd, a 21.69 per cent stake in Zee Learn Ltd, and a 14.72 percent ownership in Zee Media Corporation LTD.

“Zee Learn Ltd., SITI Networks Ltd. & Zee Media Corporation Ltd, are going through a difficult phase mainly because of lack of capital. “I will take all the required efforts to resolve the outstanding issues,” he said.

“I am exploring new business opportunities in the video digital space as well as AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) in the video space without getting into conflicts with ZEEL in any manner,” he said without giving any further details. The Hindu + BusinessLine Combo

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