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UBI slaps wilful defaulter notice on Vijay Mallya

Kolkata-based United Bank of India (UBI) has slapped a wilful defaulter’s notice on Vijay Mallya, chairman of grounded Kingfisher Airlines, and other board members after the company defaulted. It gave the company 15 days to respond.

A email query to Kingfisher on the issue did not elicit any response. The airline has been grounded since October 2012.

UBI is the first lender to send such a notice. It has an individual exposure of Rs 400 crore to Kingfisher, classified a non-performing asset. According to RBI guidelines, banks can categorise defaulters as wilful if the borrower has not paid back when it has the capacity to honour the obligation or the funds have been diverted and not used for the purpose it was taken, among others.

According to a bank official, the notice was served earlier this week. Once the borrower responds, a committee will be formed, headed by the chairman of the bank to vet it. If not satisfied, it will tell RBI the borrower has been so classified. Then, the information is made available by RBI to all banks.

“If a borrower is so tagged, it will find it difficult to obtain a loan from any bank. The borrower become ‘untouchable’ for lenders,” said a senior public sector banker.

Kingfisher owes Rs 6,500 crore to a consortium of banks, led by State Bank of India, on which it has defaulted. The banks have classified the loans as non-performing, though these were restructured in 2011 and a part of the debt converted into equity.

A large part of the loan was unsecured, so most made 100 per cent provisioning for the exposure. SBI has the highest, at Rs 1,600 crore. Recently, it had said it was also exploring options to tag the airline as a wilful defaulter.

Banks have started recovering their dues from the airline by liquidating the promoter’s personal guarantee which includes financial assets, and physical assets like its office in Mumbai and a villa in Goa.

Bankers also hold the pledge shares of United Spirits, Mangalore Chemicals & Fertilizers and Kingfisher, beside corporate guarantees of United Breweries Holdings.

The finance ministry has been prodding banks for improving their recovery of dues and identifying wilful defaulters, to send the right signals to such borrowers.

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