Anil Ambani was a Wealthy Businessman, now he is not: UK Court
Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani was a wealthy businessman and now he is not as a result of a "disastrous turn of events" in the telecom market in India, his lawyers told a UK court on Friday as they fought a bid by top Chinese banks to recover USD 680 million from the businessman.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd Mumbai Branch, on behalf of itself, China Development Bank and Exim Bank of China, had sought summary judgment against Mr Ambani over an alleged breach of a personal guarantee on a debt refinancing loan of around USD 925 million in February 2012.
Mr Ambani, 60, denies providing authority for any such guarantee, resulting in the High Court action in the UK - the jurisdiction agreed to as part of the terms of the loan agreement.
At a hearing at the Commercial Division of the High Court of England and Wales in London to set the terms for the "conditional order" granted to three Chinese banks last year against the Reliance Communications (RCom) boss, his legal team sought to establish that his net worth was zero once his liabilities were taken into account.
"The value of Mr Ambani's investments has collapsed since 2012. The Indian telecom sector in particular has been dramatically hit by the Indian government's change of policy in relation to the grant of spectrum," notes his defence.
"Whereas Mr Ambani's investments were worth more than USD 7 billion in 2012, they are now worth USD 89 million, and his net worth is zero once his liabilities are taken into account... Quite simply, he was a wealthy businessman, now he is not," said his barrister Robert Howe.
The banks' counsel called Mr Ambani's claims into question and repeatedly referred to his "lavish lifestyle", involving access to 11 or so luxury cars, a private jet, a yacht and rent-free access to the exclusive Seawind penthouse in South Mumbai.
"So, Mr Ambani's assertion is that he is massively personally insolvent, is bankrupt. Has he filed for bankruptcy in India," questioned Justice David Waksman during the course of the half-day hearing.
Mr Ambani's legal team, including leading Indian lawyer Harish Salve, responded in the negative, followed by a brief reference in court to India's Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) only recently coming into play.
"The evidence overall is that Mr Ambani could not come close to paying a sum of USD 700 million into court," said Mr Howe.