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Even ‘paan ki dukaan’ better run: IndiGo promoters’ spat turns ugly, stocks crash 17%

Locked in a bitter battle with fellow co-founder Rahul Bhatia, IndiGo promoter Rakesh Gangwal has alleged serious governance lapses in the company.

SNS | New Delhi |

The crisis at the country’s largest private carrier IndiGo seems to be deepening with the dispute between the promoters of the airline turning ugly.

The differences had been earlier been presumed to be a minor one by many industry experts but it now transpires that it has snowballed into a full-blown war.

Locked in a bitter battle with fellow co-founder Rahul Bhatia, IndiGo promoter Rakesh Gangwal has alleged serious governance lapses in the company, saying even a “paan ki dukaan” (betel shop) would have managed matters with more grace.

Gangwal, who along with his affiliates holds around 37 per cent stake in IndiGo’s parent firm InterGlobe Aviation, said that the company has “started veering off” from the core principles and values of governance that made the company what it is today.

IndiGo co-founder Rahul Bhatia and his affiliates (IGE Group) have around 38 per cent stake.

Gangwal, who has so far remained behind the scenes, has come on record to lodge his grievances against various issues pertaining to IndiGo, so much so that, he has sought regulatory intervention from market regulator Sebi to resolve the issues.

According to him, the shareholders’ agreement provides his long-time friend Bhatia unusual controlling rights over IndiGo, the country’s largest airline.

“Beyond just questionable Related Party Transactions, various fundamental governance norms and laws are not being adhered to and this is inevitably going to lead to unfortunate outcomes unless effective measures are taken today,” Gangwal said in the letter.

Referring to various events at the company, Rakesh Gangwal, in the proposed notice for an extraordinary general meeting, said the events go “far beyond just poor governance and even a ‘paan ki dukaan’ would have handled these matters with more grace”.

A copy of the letter has also been sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal among others.

Gangwal wrote to the board seeking an extraordinary general meeting. However, Bhatia on June 12 opposed the proposal. Bhatia wrote to the board alleging that the genesis of Gangwal’s angst was his “hurt ego” and refusal of IGE Group to entertain his “unreasonable demands”.

The developments have left investors wary. Shares of IndiGo fell 17 per cent during early trade on Wednesday. At 9.47 am, the budget passenger carrier was trading at Rs 1,379.65 apiece, down by Rs 186.10 before hitting an intra-day low of Rs 1,291.

Meanwhile, Sebi has sought a response from IndiGo on the alleged grievances raised by Gangwal.

IndiGo in its BSE regulatory filing said: “… We inform you that the Board of Directors of lnterGlobe Aviation Limited has received a letter dated July 8, 2019, from Rakesh Gangwal, the copy of which is already with the Stock Exchanges, informing the company that he has written a letter to Sebi seeking regulatory intervention on his alleged grievances”.

“Sebi has in the meantime asked the company to give its response to this letter by July 19, 2019, with which the company will comply.”

(With agency inputs)