Wednesday, Sep 02, 2015
With the bail of Atlas Jewellery founder and chairman MM Ramachandran reportedly rejected, he is now considering putting up his prime asset — a successfully running hospital in Oman for sale to help repay part of the Dh550 million that he owes to banks, industry sources told Gulf News.
A meeting of the steering committee of banks set up to recover the millions took place on Wednesday evening, banking sources said.
“Earlier this proposal [to sell his assets in Oman] was not acceptable to him as the Atlas Health Care Group has been a profit-making entity with a leading Omani group as its sponsors. The sponsor is now considering to take over the business from Ramachandran once proper valuation of the asset has been carried out,” industry sources explained.
In a statement to a section of the media on Tuesday, Ramachandran said he was committed to repaying back the huge outstanding amount. There is speculation he might also sell off the group’s jewellery stores in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
Earlier, a Saudi investor wanted to buy off the entire group. However, Ramachandran who was willing to sell off his assets in other GCC countries, was keen to retain stories in the UAE. Now it appears his wife who is the owner of many of the UAE stores might give corporate guarantees to pay of these debts.
It is also a widely known that the group had purchased a lot of prime property in India, some of which will also be disposed off to raise funds for the payback. “Atlas Jewellery India had bought some prime properties in Bengaluru, Chennai and Kerala and these might be liquidated to raise the amount. These stores were part of a project which has yet to start, but in the meanwhile their realty worth has gone up considerably. He is likely to request to be bailed out to be able to initiate the liquidation process. A consultant hired by Atlas has been negotiating with the banks for some time to settle the issues,” the sources added.
A spokesman from a leading jewellery group said the group founder’s arrest may sully the reputation of all traders in the fraternity. “The jewellery chain’s famous tag line describes it as the winner of the trust of millions. In fact now this episode story is about breaking the trust of millions. Gold is a commodity that just doesn’t disappear overnight. This huge debt has piled up because of years of delinquency which did not come to the notice of the banks who continued to lend him such big sums.”
Another owner of a famous jewellery brand also expressed doubts about the company’s latest balance sheets which shows a business of Dh10 billion last year and profit of over Dh20 million. “In order to execute sales to the tune of billions, one requires enormous stocks, business plans, marketing networks, advertising and huge manpower.
“In this market of cut-throat competition with jewellers coming out with bigger, better designs and fluctuations in gold prices, even the most resilient groups have to dig in their feet to be able to show this kind of performance. But in the last many years, one never saw any activity on this scale in this chain. In fact, within the industry most of us often talked about the poor stocks and footfall in Atlas stores and felt sooner or later we were going to hear some bad news. It is surprising that banks never saw this coming,” he said.
By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary Senior Reporter
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