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Friday, May 31, 2013

HDIL braces for legal fight after MIAL notice

An edited version of this story first appeared in DNA Money edition on Thursday, May 30, 2013.

Housing Development & Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) plunged 10.3% in the intra-day trade on the news that Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) has served a notice of termination for its slum rehabilitation project citing unsubstantiated charges. The company shares recovered part of the losses to close 6.8% lower at Rs 47.95 in Mumbai trading on Wednesday. The realtor is set for a legal battle with MIAL and may also file for damages.

Hariprakash Pandey, vice president - finance, HDIL, said the company has not accepted the notice. "The termination notice is completely unwarranted and company will take all the necessary legal steps and is also looking at filing (as said by company chairman Sarang Wadhawan) as damage claim on MIAL," said Pandey. He added that their legal counsel has advised the notice of termination is not tenable in the court of law and that the realtor has initiated legal remedies available to it.

While HDIL claims it has fulfilled all the obligations pertaining to the slum rehabilitation project MIAL feels otherwise. According to sources, MIAL entered into Slum Rehabilitation Agreement with HDIL in October, 2007 and as per the said agreement, HDIL had to complete the slum rehabilitation within four years i.e. by 2011.

"However, HDIL continuously failed to perform and MIAL issued a Cure Notice in June 2011. Because of non-performance of HDIL, the MIAL board took a decision to terminate the agreement and accordingly, in the month of February, 2013, MIAL terminated the said agreement,” MIAL sources said.

However, HDIL management said they have already handed over over 1,000 apartments for the Sahar elevated road and that more than 16,000 apartments are ready clearly substantiating the company has have fulfilled obligations.

"We have applied to the Maharashtra government for taking possession of over 7,000 apartments, which has been pending for over a year now. There have been issues regarding the eligibility criteria of the slum dwellers and the Maharashtra government has taken cognisance of it. There is a policy issue with respect to eligibility norms of the slum dwellers which needs to be resolved. Our apartments are ready since over two years now but issue will only get resolved after the government comes up with clarity on the criteria and expedite the hand over process," said Pandey.

HDIL said it will continue work on the approximately 27,000 units and keep on receving the transfer of development rights (TDR) from Government of Maharashtra against these units.

However, following a conservative accounting policy, the company has written-off the unabsorbed costs on its books (profit and loss account as an exceptional item) around Rs 441.98 crore accumulated over a period of 3-4 years. The unabsorbed costs pertains to 65 acres of land HDIL is supposed to get after the completion or substantial completion of the slum rehabilitation project.

The market is also abuzz with rumours that banks have termed their lending to HDIL as non-performing asset (NPA). The company management said they cannot comment on this matter unless there is proper information given by the banks themselves. "There was some issue with bank payments in fourth quarter but none of our bank accounts are frozen as of now," said Pandey.

Prior to termination, MIAL also invoked HDIL's performance securities in the form of bank guarantee worth Rs 25 crore, MIAL sources said. Now that the termination notice has been served the HDIL management feels there is no question of any other performance security to be invoked. "There was a promissory note worth Rs 275 crore but that cannot be invoked as the agreement itself has been terminated," said Pandey.

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