Companies & Sectors
SKS Board backs down; wants to settle with sacked CEO Suresh Gurumani instead of taking issue to EGM

It is learnt that the microfinance company feels that going to the EGM will only lead to washing of more dirty linen in public. The sacked CEO may also not prefer staying on the board of the company

After unceremoniously sacking its CEO, Suresh Gurumani, the board of directors of SKS Microfinance Limited seem set for a settlement with him rather than take the matter of his sacking to the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM).

Moneylife learns that at its board meeting on Friday, 22nd October, the SKS Microfinance board is understood to have decided that going to the EGM at this time - as directed by the Andhra Pradesh Court - would only lead to the washing of more dirty linen in public. Our sources say that although SKS's founder Vikram Akula and director Paresh Patel of Sandstone Capital were in favour of sticking to the decision of sacking Mr Gurumani, the other independent directors apparently did not want to precipitate the situation.

Mr Gurumani who attended the meeting, is understood to have left, once the board decided that it would work at an amicable settlement. He is also understood to have said that he is not in favour of continuing in the board. While there are no media reports on the proceedings of the board meetings, Moneylife learns that the board spent a lot of time discussing the Andhra Pradesh Ordinance to regulate microfinance and its possible impact on SKS's business.

On 4th October, the board of the Hyderabad-based company had terminated the services of Mr Gurumani four years ahead of the expiry of his contract and named MR Rao as his successor. Mr Gurumani had a five-year contract from April 1, 2009 to expire on March 31, 2014. The company in its notification to stock exchanges did not attribute any reason to his termination.

Now that the SKS board wants an end to the public spat over his sacking, Gurumani's settlement will, in all probability, be what was being discussed before his sacking: 1.25 lakh stock options and payment of a year's salary (a stunning Rs2 crore a year in a microfinance company). As we had reported earlier, the settlement fell through because Mr Gurumani rejected the many onerous conditions that were included in his severance deal. It was then that the board decided to sack him and has not managed to offer a credible explanation for its actions. A more acceptable new settlement is now being worked out and Mr Gurumani clearly wants to keep quiet until he cashes his cheque.

Mr Gurumani's employment terms apparently specified that if he was terminated 'with cause', he would lose all his stock options. Given this deal, we learn that the company tried to find a 'cause' for sacking. This means that Suresh Gurumani will walk away a very rich man after just two years as head of a company that claims to alleviate the problems of India's unbanked poor.

Meanwhile, as SKS's stock prices continue to tumble and the board grapples with the new Andhra government ordinance, a shareholder told us, "Isn't it amazing that a company which claims to deal with India's poorest and needy persons does not have a single board director who is from among the people it lends to."

Every board member of SKS Microfinance has been with a foreign bank or private equity company with an Ivy League background. It probably explains why the company felt it could get away with sacking a CEO without reason just a couple of months after a major IPO.

Atul Takle, who is in charge of communications at SKS Microfinance has written to us to say: "As you are aware, proceedings of board meetings are privileged information and we would not be able to comment on those."

Interestingly, SKS Microfinance has made no announcement to the stock exchanges about their proposed change of mind and the fact that a settlement in favour of former CEO Suresh Gurumani would involve a big payout at a time when the company is already facing serious issues over the structure of the microfinance business.



Rambabu Shastri

6 years ago

Village Moneylender in:
1. Corporate garb.
2. Full suit
3. Drives Mercedes
4. Wears Gucci.
5. Talks in American.

In short, our first multi-national moneylenders.

Rajan Alexander

6 years ago

When we started out in development a couple of decades ago, we instinctly targeted to reduce the influence of money lenders, if not eliminate them completely. Why? They were the traditional oppressors and exploiters in society. But today, we find MFIs have filled up the vacuum. MFIs believe that “having access to expensive credit is better than no credit” on one hand and “the observed rate is where demand equals supply”. The result is an “Animal Farm” situation where we are now not able to distinguish between “pigs” and “humans” and vice versa. In fact, money-lenders have got a face-over by packaging themselves as MFIs. A good example is Mohd Yunis of Grameen Bank comes from a traditional money-lending caste. And of course, he got the Nobel Prize for Peace while the Nobel Committee todate have yet to confer the prize to Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of Peace!

The IPO of SKS, one of the largest MFIs in India, saw it over-subscribed by 15 times; their Ten-Rupee share was priced at a premium of Rs 975 - showing how much the market had confidence on their profitability while “banking with the poor”. PMFIs argue that they have to charge high rates to maintain profitability. Profitability, which even private banks couldn’t match! Profitability that permits SKS to pay Rs 1 crore as bonuses to their just fired CEO!

And how do they attain profitability?

A month ago, SKS in the state of Andhra Pradesh was accused of a series of farmer suicides that prompted the state government to introduce new restrictions on the microfinance industry by seeking to cap lending rates and end coercive means of recovery. Last week alone, Andhra Pradesh police arrested three loan agents of SKS Microfinance and Spandana Sphoorty Financial Ltd. after borrowers complain that they were illegally pressured by the agents to repay their small loans around $1,300.

The state’s share of outstanding microfinance loans represents nearly 40% of the sector’s total portfolio, according to ratings agency CRISIL, a credit rating agency. Now if MFI is all about access to the poor, we can ask the question, why the clamour to be concentrated in a state which belong to top-five in development in the country? We would have thought they would have gone to the five lying at the bottom rung of the country. But no, they avoid it like plague. It is easy to see they do this on repayment potential of states. The interests MFIs pursue are interests of self sustenance and their own growth. The poor is hardly in the radar except for rhetoric.

The sooner MFIs are seen as profit entreprises, the better. The longer they pretend they are pro-poor, the longer they discredit the NGO sector who gave birth to a Frankenstein.


6 years ago

Now here is a case where a big corporation is walking away without listening to public demand for an explanation.Very often it is seen thet public demand is stifled with a internal policy which demands that things dont come out . Somtimes as is the case however the man in the middle of the storm gets a better deal to keep quite .But really a corporation with a Narayanan Murthy on board as a investor ,does the public not feel shortchanged ? .Corporate Governance here is being given a mere lip service as is done more often in the corporate world. However a moral stand should be taken by the star studded board by coming out with a disclosure as to why the CEO is being given a GOLDEN PARACHUTE even before breaking any sweat.Is there somthing so fundamentally wrong with him suddenly that they have discovered and so disgusting that cant be discussed in public.Well the outgoing SEBI CHAIRMAN could maybe just find this as the right stage to go in a blaze of glory.And step on some toes .

R Balakrishnan

6 years ago

The Board is just a rubber stamp. The CEO runs the co. Gurumani was perhaps hired at the insistence of the PE guys to be a decorative piece. Unfortuanately, the owners thought that they could get rid of him cheap, once he had servied his purpose.
This co shows us of everything that is greed related. One allotment made just six months before the IPO at one third the IPO price! Was it a small price to pay for the success of the IPO? Greed and need matched.
ESOP's were funded by the co. Shareholding change history is a conundrum.
Profitability can only fall.
Good that the excreta is hitting the ceiling after the first microfinance IPO.
Regulators, as usual, sleeping.

SEBI allowed Bharti Airtel to avoid takeover norms, allege some shareholders and approach SAT

Minority shareholders have alleged that Bharti Airtel got away by avoiding open offer of Rs30,000 crore thanks to SEBI’s flexible application of takeover norms

A few minority shareholders of Bharti Airtel Ltd have approached the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) for taking action against the company for what they call violating takeover regulations of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

According to an appeal filed with the SAT, the minority shareholders allege that during June 2007 and September 2008, Bharti promoters, Pastel Ltd (a unit of SingTel), Bharti Telecom Ltd and Indian Continent Investment Ltd (ICIL) increased their stake to 67.03% from 60.91%, which violates takeover regulations.

As per SEBI's Regulation 11(2) (the takeover code), any acquisition of shares or voting rights by an acquirer already holding 55% or more but less than 75% of the shares or voting rights in a target company mandates a compulsory open offer.

Though this increase in stake-holding triggered an open offer requirement under SEBI Regulation 11(1) of the Takeover Code (as it stood at the time of the buyback in 2008-09 which allowed an acquirer, holding between 15% and 75% of shares or voting rights, to increase the shareholding by 5% in one financial year without trigger of an open offer), the promoters failed to make an open offer to acquire at least 20% of the voting capital of Bharti Airtel from its then existing public shareholders, mandatory under the Takeover Code, the minority shareholders said in their appeal.

According to the appeal filed before the SAT, the open offer would have been a bonanza for minority shareholders as promoters of Bharti Airtel will have to buy 20% additional stake at Rs400 to Rs500 per share (adjusted to stock split - the price during the relevant period was about Rs800-Rs900 per share). The open offer would cost about Rs30,000 crore to the promoters of Bharti Airtel, the minority shareholders estimate.

Earlier in April 2009, SEBI had sought clarification from Bharti Airtel, the country's largest telecom company, on alleged violations of its regulations by not publically announcing increase in promoter stake holding in the company. According to media reports, Bharti Airtel, at that time had said that ICIL bought these shares in two tranches of 4.99% and 1.28% and did not violate SEBI's takeover norms.


As of September 2010, four companies, Bharti Telecom, Pastel, ICIL and Viridian Ltd, belong to 'promoter and promoter group' category and together hold 67.87% stake in Bharti Airtel.

Bharti Telecom, which holds 45.44% stake in Bharti Airtel, was delisted from the Bombay Stock Exchange in October 1999 by offering to buy back its shares at Rs95 per share, which was increased by one rupee subsequently. Bharti Enterprises, erstwhile Bharti Overseas Trading Co, is the holding firm of the Bharti group and holds majority stake in Bharti Telecom.

Pastel is an investment arm of Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) and holds 15.57% stake in Bharti Airtel, as of end-September 2010. Earlier in July, SingTel's other unit Viridian bought 0.04% stake in Bharti Airtel from the open market for about Rs42.28 crore.
ICIL is a Bharti group company and holds 6.82% stake in Bharti Airtel. It is the same company, which is supposed to have brought the additional stake between 2007 and 2008.


In a similar case, the promoters of OCL India Ltd effected a buyback of 11.84 lakh shares in 2003, subsequently increasing their stake to 75% from 62.56%, an increase of 12.44%. SEBI, on 17 June 2007, issued a show cause notice to the promoters of OCL inter alia alleging that they are liable for penal action under the Takeover Code and the SEBI Act, 1992. OCL promoters took the defence that the increase in shareholding or voting right pursuant to a buyback was not an 'acquisition' of shares or voting rights through an act of the shareholder, but was merely incidental to the buyback and that such an increase in shareholding or voting rights without an actual acquisition of shares will not trigger Regulation 11(1).

SEBI concluded that the promoters of OCL had acted in contravention of the Takeover Code by not making an open offer to provide exit opportunity to the public shareholders, however since the open offer price calculated as per the earlier share price was much lower than the prevailing share price at that time, the market regulator directed adjudication proceedings against the promoters of OCL.

In another case where there was alleged violation of the Takeover Code, the market regulator took a flexible approach and granted specific exemption to Ajanta Pharma Ltd. The promoters of Ajanta Pharma increased their stake in the company to 73.92% from 66.82%, an increase of 7.1% that would have triggered Regulation 11(2) of the Takeover Code mandating the promoters to make an open offer. However, Ajanta Pharma, on behalf of the buyers, filed an exemption application before SEBI seeking exemption from the open offer obligation.

SEBI, while concluding that the passive increase in shareholding and voting rights triggers the open offer, clarified that the entire increase by 7.1% does not constitute the trigger event.

According to the second proviso to Regulation 11(2) which came into effect on 30 October 2008, an acquirer is exempted from open offer obligation under Regulation 11(2) in case of an increase in shareholding or voting rights up to 5% if such increase is pursuant to a buyback of shares by the target company.

Further, SEBI, vide circular dated 6 August 2009, clarified that the 5% limit under proviso to Regulation 11(2) can be availed only once in the lifetime of the company and is not renewed each financial year as in the case of Regulation 11(1).
The rulings in above cases reflect that SEBI has been flexible enough to grant exemption to the acquirers on exemption applications when the acquisition is incidental to the buyback and there is no change in control of the company. In light of this trend, there is a need to consolidate the law on trigger of Takeover Code pursuant to buyback and specifically incorporate it in the Takeover Code rather than keeping it discretionary at SEBI's volition. On its part, the market regulator had appointed a Takeover Regulation Advisory Committee with C Achuthan, the former presiding officer of SAT, as its chairman. However, there is not much information available about the working of the committee on the SEBI website.




6 years ago

You will appriciate most of the media house are scared or biased in favour of Big Corporate Houses Like Airtel, who are big Advt Spender. They are not covering these stories which affect the intrest of their master at the cost of Small share holders.

Keep It up.

Udbhav Puri

6 years ago

This is a very well written article - can you please connect me to the author.

Udbhav Puri


6 years ago

Sebi under Bhave: "Show me the person and I will show you the rule". Its orders are a joke.

Wednesday’s Market Preview: Global cues point to a soft-to-flat opening

Global cues indicate a soft-to-flat opening for the local markets today. Markets in the US ended steady with a positive bias on Tuesday as the dollar regained its strength on concerns about the quantum of the stimulus that will be announced by the Federal Reserve next week. Markets in Asia were mostly higher in early trade as the Japanese yen weakened against the dollar, a positive indicator for exporters. The SGX Nifty was down seven points to 6,102 against its previous close of 6,109.

The local market opened in the green on Tuesday despite the Asian pack trading mixed. The indices were seen on both sides of the neutral side amid choppy trade. However, profit-booking after recent gains pulled the indices into the red in noon trade. Attempts to recover were thwarted by selling pressure, keeping the market in the negative terrain till the end of the session.

The Sensex ended 81.73 points (0.40%) lower at 20,221. The Nifty settled at 6,082, down 23.80 points (0.39%).

The US markets ended flat on Tuesday as the dollar regained its strength on concerns about the quantum of stimulus that the Federal Reserve will announced in its two-day meeting next week. Investors ignored the higher-than-expected consumer confidence but pondered over weak earnings reports. The Federal Housing Finance Agency said in a separate report that home prices climbed 0.4% in August, beating analysts’ forecasts.

The Dow rose 5.41 points (0.05%) to 11,169. The S&P 500 added 0.02 points to 1,185. The Nasdaq surged 6.44 points (0.26%) to 2,497.

The Asian pack was mostly higher in early trade as the Japanese yen weakened against the dollar, a positive indicator for exporters. Asian leaders are meeting in Hanoi this week to urge China to accelerate yuan gains. China has kept the yuan’s rise to about 2% since a June pledge to introduce more flexibility into its currency.

The Shanghai Composite was up 0.28%, the Hang Seng gained 0.44%, Jakarta Composite rose 0.27%, KLSE Composite was up 0.21%, Nikkei 225 advanced 0.69% and Straits Times added 0.03%. On the other hand Seoul Composite and the Taiwan Weighted were down 0.14% each in early trade.

The telecom ministry is understood to have written to the home ministry about operators' compliance with a rule on upgradation of systems to intercept data sent using Blackberry messenger and e-mail services.

Leading operators including Airtel, Vodafone, state-run BSNL, Idea and Reliance Communications (RCom) are believed to have informed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that their systems are ready to lawfully intercept Blackberry messenger services, telecom ministry sources said on Tuesday.

The government had on 16th September asked operators to upgrade their systems to monitor data sent via Blackberry messenger and enterprise e-mail services, as it feels the encrypted services could be used by terror elements to organise attacks.


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