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As Adani lumbers towards Dighi Port acquisition, promoter cries foul
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The bankruptcy tribunal has okayed Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd’s resolution plan for debt-laden Dighi Port Ltd while the latter’s promoter has cried foul over the decision.

Adani Ports’ bid at Rs 650 crore means a huge haircut for the lenders that claim dues worth Rs 3,098 crore from Dighi Port. 

The lenders comprise operational creditors as well as a 16-member consortium led by Bank of India.

Vijay Kalantri, promoter, chairman and managing director of Dighi Port, told VCCircle that the tribunal’s approval is biased.

He argues that Adani Ports’ resolution plan is non-compliant as the bid came in much after the deadline. 

Moreover, Adani Ports had not taken permission from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the “key feature of the bankruptcy law related to value maximisation was not looked at by the lenders while approving the bid”, he added.

“My offer is around 12% higher than the Adani offer. We have offered to pay Rs 720 crore to the lenders as part of a one-time outside of the insolvency resolution process. Banks want 10% upfront payment, which we are ready to pay,” Kalantri pointed out.

Kalantri has also contested admission of Dighi Port under the bankruptcy law itself.

He added that this approval is subject to a nod by the bankruptcy appeals tribunal. 

The promoter said he had already moved the appeals tribunal but the higher agency did not record his objections.

With this approval, India’s biggest private port operator controlled by billionaire Gautam Adani is now closer to buying Dighi Port.

A purchase will enable entry into Maharashtra, one of the three coastal states the port operator does not have a presence in. The other two states are Karnataka and West Bengal.

In a U-turn last September, Dighi Port’s committee of creditors (CoC) led by Bank of India okayed the resolution plan by Adani Ports under the bankruptcy and insolvency law.

Dighi Port operates a port on the banks of Rajpuri creek in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. The company was dragged to the bankruptcy tribunal in April 2018.

In November 2018, government-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Adani Ports and a consortium of Veritas (India) Ltd and UV Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd had submitted bids to acquire Dighi Port.

In May last year, the bankruptcy tribunal approved JNPT’s resolution plan despite Adani’s bid being higher than the state-owned entity. The tribunal also dismissed JNPT’s requests to waive off stamp duty and some taxes, and a few other concessions.

In July, JNPT withdrew its bid to buy the bankrupt port after the NCLT suggested modifications in its offer.

The beleaguered Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) and Maharashtra Maritime Board are also stakeholders in Dighi Port, which is being built under a 50-year build, own, operate, share and transfer model.

Adani’s acquisitions

Earlier this year, Adani Ports announced its decision to acquire a 75% stake in the Andhra Pradesh-based Krishnapatnam Port Company Ltd for an enterprise value of Rs 13,572 crore ($1.9 billion). 

It was Adani’s single-biggest acquisition move that will help its market share grow from 22% to 27%.

In December, the Adani-controlled port firm agreed to acquire a controlling stake in Mumbai-listed Snowman Logistics Ltd from Gateway Distriparks Ltd for about Rs 296 crore.

This will help Adani Ports to expand its cold-chain logistics and warehousing business.

Adani Ports has continued to expand at a rapid pace to consolidate its position as India’s biggest private-sector port operator.

Before Krishnapatnam, Adani Ports had acquired Dhamra Port in Odisha in 2014 and Kattupalli Port in Tamil Nadu in 2018.

Last year, the Adani group snapped up GMR Chhattisgarh Energy’s 1,370 megawatt plant for an enterprise value of Rs 4,792 crore outside the insolvency process, and months after the group won the rights to run six airports across the country earlier this year.

Also read: Can Warburg Pincus-backed Gangavaram Port stand ground as Adani expands its net?

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