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Posts Tagged ‘Prashant Ruia’

Are Ruias India’s most selfless & misunderstood entrepreneurs?

Posted by fairval on October 22, 2016

A seminal deal happened this week: one of the largest ever acquisitions of an Indian company, and as the full page ads mentioned – India’s largest ever FDI. The Ruias sold Essar Oil to a consortium led by Russian oil major Rosneft, at an enterprise value of USD 10.9B (there was separate money involved for associated group companies like Vadinar Port).

With this deal, the group expects debt burden to reduce by 50%. Overall debt at group level could be as high as USD20B. This suggests most of the sale value would go towards debt servicing.

The impact of the deal was instantly felt on the banking system. ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector bank, which had a large exposure to the Essar group, jumped 7% on the day this deal was announced, and has risen since. At the time of writing, the stock is up 13% from the pre-deal close. In market cap terms, this is a USD 2.8B gain.

All this is good for the banking system, the rupee and the Indian economy. It becomes even better when you consider that the promoters Ruias have pretty much made no money whatsoever in setting up and running Essar Oil.

You read it right. For a company spanning around 2 decades, it appears the Ruias may have made zilch for all their family effort, plus the risk they had taken in terms of corporate, and maybe personal guarantees against bank loans.

Since we don’t have full information, this is what we are assuming – almost entire proceeds will go towards reducing debt. This means the only money Ruias may have made would be from dividend income, and salaries for family personnel.

On this count, the situation appears to be like this: in terms of data since FY02, Essar Oil hadn’t paid any dividend (as per equity database Ace Analyzer). The database does not show data before this. As per FY15 annual report, the only family member directly involved with Essar Oil was Prashant Ruia, who was chairman of the company. His remuneration for FY15 was Rs 43 lakh (Rs 4.3million). This is negligible for a company with a revenue of almost USD15B.

In other words, since the last 15 years or so, Ruias may have earned nothing directly out of Essar Oil. Assuming other than the principal amount of their investment in Essar Oil, they use the rest of the deal money to pay bankers, that’s 15 years of no return for an incredible effort of setting up India’s 2nd largest refinery, and one which pretty complex configuration. It wasn’t just a refinery; Essar Oil has 2500 retail outlets, India’s largest oil retail network in the private sector.

Contrast this with what the other big private sector player in India in oil refining – Mukesh Ambani – makes from his company Reliance Industries. Mr Ambani earned dividend of Rs 1400+ crore in FY16. In the last 5 years, he has earned dividend income of almost USD1B. He also draws a salary, which he has capped at Rs 15 crore per year for the last 8 years. This is besides his wealth from shares of RIL, which is about USD24B.

That is more like it. Unless you are making huge amounts of money, why would you create such a large business?

Unless some of the data above is wrong, this leads to a natural question – just why did the Ruais do it? Take such a huge financial risk, and then make no money.

Group chairman Shashi Ruia said in the press release “It is a historic day for Essar. The transaction demonstrates our unique ability to build world-class assets”. Note the stress on creating history, and doing something world class. Prashant Ruia’s quote also emphasized the group’s ability to create benchmarks. He said “The deals we have done have led to an FDI infusion of more than $30 billion into India”

I guess all this is not easy for a simple mind like mine to understand. Can the urge to create national or global benchmarks be so strong, that one can labour for decades for no financial reward? I don’t have it, many of us middle class Indians, who can’t look beyond their next salary cheque may not have it either.

And on top of it, the paradox is: we, who want to work for money, are poor or middle class; and those who are working for no visible money are not. Maybe this is one of those god’s mysterious ways of dispensing justice and allocating wealth.

In sum, I think it is time the media and analysts revised their opinion about Essar group, and recognize their selfless deeds for what they are worth.

 

PS: I guess this transaction and the 2 decade history of Essar Oil deserves a case study by Harvard Business School – what say?

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