The debt crisis that has hit billionaire Subhash Chandra promoted Essel Group, which has companies such as Zee Entertainment and Dish TV among many others under its umbrella, has trickled down to the mutual fund industry as well.
Some of the country’s leading mutual fund houses such as Kotak Mutual Fund, and the country’s largest mutual fund by assets under management, HDFC Mutual Fund, have either not paid the entire redemption amount, or rolled over their schemes because of their exposure to Essel Group and Zee Entertainment that have defaulted on their payments to the Mutual Fund houses.
Mutual Funds come in many different forms; equity oriented, hybrid funds, debt funds and many different combinations of these. Among them is a type of fund known as Fixed Maturity Plans (FMP) which invests only in debt instruments with fixed maturities i.e. the frequency of your interest, and repayment of principal or redemption amount is fixed. Such funds invest in highly rated securities and corporate bonds and are considered a very predictable and safe form of investment, with little or almost no chance of default.
So, imagine the horror of investors when they found out that they will not be receiving the entire redemption amount from their mutual funds which they deemed to be safe from the risks of default. This has the potential to wreak massive havoc in the market and would represent the first time that investors in fixed maturity plans are not getting paid the full amount on maturity and reflects the crisis facing some of the country’s leading companies saddled with debt.
The mutual fund industry has a debt exposure of ₹ 7,500 crore to the Zee/Essel Group. This means that mutual fund houses have invested in, or in effect, lent money to the aforesaid groups. Out of this ₹ 7,500 crores, ₹ 1,500 crore is in fixed maturity plans.
Kotak and HDFC Mutual Funds have the maximum exposure in this category, with Kotak Mutual Fund having exposure across six of its fixed maturity plans to the Essel/Zee Groups which have all delayed full redemption. HDFC Mutual Fund opted to extend the maturity of one of its FMPs from 15th April to 29th April.
Other funds that have exposure to the debt ridden Essel Group are SBI Asset Management Company (AMC), HDFC AMC, Reliance Nippon Life AMC, Franklin Templeton, Aditya Birla Sun Life, UTI AMC and ICICI Prudential.
Subhash Chandra’s Zee Entertainment (his flagship company) has a debt of over 13,000 crore ₹ and is in talks with various investors for a strategic stake sale in order to reduce its massive debt.