Sebi gets Supreme Court nod for sale of Sahara group's assets

Subrata RoyThe Supreme Court has given capital market regulator Sebi the go-ahead for selling off Sahara group's real estate assets, other than the high profile Amby Valley and overseas assets, to recover nearly Rs36,000 crore the group had collected from millions of small investors in illegal bonds.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur on Tuesday asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to appoint an independent agency that could sell up to Rs40,000-crore worth of Sahara properties.

The money so raised will also cover money needed to secure chairman Subrata Roy's release from jail. The apex court had sent Roy to jail in March 2014 after he failed to arrange Rs5,000 crore in cash and Rs5,000 crore in bank guarantees.

Though Roy has paid the cash component of Rs5,000 crore, he has not been able to come up with Rs5,000-cr worth of bank guarantees.

Chief Justice Thakur said only the sale of Sahara properties will now solve the problem. Sebi could begin the process as early as next week.

The Supreme Court, however, asked Sebi not to sell Sahara properties if the bids are below 90 per cent of the circle rate.

The embattled group owns some major hotels overseas, including the Plaza in New York and the Grosvenor House in London, besides vast real estate assets in India itself.

However, most of these assets are debt-laden or are in the process of attachment by creditors. Sahara group also failed to materialise the sale of some of its hotels after creditors laid claim to these. The company also failed to raise enough money to secure bail for its jailed founder chairman Subrata Roy.

Roy has been in jail since March 2014 after the company failed to comply with a court order to refund money raised from millions of small investors by selling them bonds that had no approval from market regulator.

The apex court had, in June last year, asked Sahara to repay the entire Rs36,000 crore it owed investors in illegal bonds.