Supreme Court puts Essar Steel sale to ArcelorMittal on hold, temporarily

The Supreme Court temporarily put ArcelorMittal’s $6.1 billion purchase of Essar Steel India Ltd on hold, after the mill’s lenders sought to annul a lower court ruling that split sale proceeds proportionately among all creditors.

The Supreme Court on Monday admitted financial lenders’ appeal against a bankruptcy court ruling that put secured creditors such as banks at par with operational creditors, or suppliers to the plants. It also said it would resolve issues arising from the Essar Steel verdict expeditiously and fix an early date for hearing the case.

Financial creditors had said the bankruptcy court’s ruling to modify the distribution of proceeds would lead to higher lending rates and increased risk of capital. The ruling will also deter foreign investments into India’s soured debt, Hong Kong-based SC Lowy said. India is trying to attract foreign capital to its bad loan cleanup, as it battles the worst non-performing loan ratio among the world’s major economies.

ArcelorMittal has been fighting a legal battle for over a year to enter India. A lower court had earlier approved Arcelor and its partner Nippon Steel Corp’s offer to pay ?42,000 crore in cash to creditors and pump in another ?8,000 crore in the country’s fourth-largest steel mill. The payment was halted by Supreme Court in April after a dispute between lenders on the distribution on funds.

Earlier this month, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal allowed ArcelorMittal’s purchase of Essar Steel, while modifying the distribution of the proceeds. The ruling stated that financial lenders will get 60.7% of their claims, and operational creditors will also get around 60% on a pro-rata basis.

In addition to banks, the ruling was also challenged by Arcelor as it was asked to part with the around ?4,000 crore of profits that the steel mill generated during the bankruptcy resolution process. The Supreme Court on Monday also admitted Arcelor’s appeal against the bankruptcy court ruling.

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