UAE- Atlas lenders to meet today to plan debt recovery

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)All 20 lenders of Atlas Jewellery will go into a huddle today to decide on the next course of action to recover their debts - estimated collectively to gross above Dh525 million - from the embattled jeweller.

The group is also trying to arrange a meeting with the immediate family members of the 73-year-old businessman M.M. Ramachandran and his senior management executives to chalk out a way to tackle the situation.

Lenders who are expected to take part in today's meeting include Bank of Baroda First Gulf Bank Doha Bank State Bank of India Emirates Islamic Al Masraf Bank Mashreqbank United Bank Habib Bank United Arab Bank Union National Bank Exim Bank of India ICBC Standard Bank Ajman Bank IBDI Bank Noor Bank Nova Scotia Bank Commercial Bank International and Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait.

A source familiar with the crisis told Khaleej Times that unless they had a "lengthy and candid discussion" with Ramachandran himself the next course of debt recovery plan cannot not be mapped out. "It is too early to talk about ... action as the debt picture of the besieged businessman is not yet fully disclosed. We expect to get ... a complete picture about (the group's) outstanding debt and assets" a banker who is leading the talks tomorrow said.

According to the UAE Central Bank Risk Bureau report as on August 17 Atlas Jewellery Group's total approved credit limit was around Dh460 million and the outstanding debt was Dh422 million. However banking sources estimate their current collective gross outstanding exposure at Dh525 million.

After deducting total cash margin deposits with banks ranging from 20 to 35 per cent of the principal loan amount net outstanding debts are estimated above Dh400 million.

Sources said Ramachandran managed to raise around Dh60 million as recently as July-August from two banks despite the financial troubles he had been facing for the past few years.

Bankers said Ramachandran a former banker managed to raise so much debts on the back of his group's audited report that showed a sales turnover of around Dh2.2 billion and a net income of Dh35 million including net profit and management fee.

Some industry jewellery watchers rebuffed assumptions that fund diversion was the cause of his downfall.

"Since 2014 Atlas was incurring operational loss across most of (its) outlets. But he (Ramachandran) has been managing to raise debts to meet indiscriminate expansion cost and debt servicing" a leading gold wholesale dealer said.

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