Company News

India's Suzlon defaults on bond payment, sources say it's in talks to sell stake

* Suzlon says defaulted on a $172 million bond payment

* Seeks to sell majority stake to resolve debt crisis - sources

* Has submitted a one-time settlement plan to its lenders

MUMBAI, July 16 (Reuters) - India’s debt-laden Suzlon Energy said it defaulted on a $172 million bond payment on Tuesday, as sources aware of the matter said the wind power equipment maker was in talks with several global private equity funds to sell a majority stake.

The company’s creditors, led by India’s biggest lenders State Bank of India, last week signed a so-called inter-creditor agreement (ICA) under which they had agreed not to take the company to a bankruptcy court.

Instead, they are studying a one-time settlement plan offered by the company, said the sources, who asked not to be named as they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately known whether the ICA included the company’s bondholders or not.

The western India-based company said it had not paid $172 million on an outstanding foreign currency convertible bond (FCCB) that was due on Tuesday.

“The company is working on a holistic solution for its debt and continues to be in discussions with various stakeholders in relation to its outstanding debt (including the bonds),” it said in a statement.

The company’s shares fell more than 4% to close at 4.60 rupees on Tuesday, compared with a 0.6% rise in the broader Nifty index.

SBI’s creditors “have sent feelers to all major private equity firms and are talking to some similar sized private equity firms such as Brookfield”, said one of the sources, a Mumbai-based banker.

He said these included a U.S.-based private equity major, but refused to identify the firm.

SBI and Suzlon did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Bloomberg reported last Thursday that Canadian company Brookfield Asset Management Inc. planned an offer for a majority stake in Suzlon and was talking to the firm’s creditors to restructure its outstanding bank loans.

Suzlon, once a shining star in India’s renewable energy space, is struggling with debt of over 110 billion rupees ($1.6 billion).

The company had restructured FCCBs worth $485 million in 2014 at a conversion price of 15.46 rupees a share. Over the course of the last five years most of the FCCBs were converted into equity barring the $172 million tranche.

“Since the company’s share price has been in single digits for over a year now, FCCB holders are not keen to convert their debt into equity,” said the banker.

$1 = 68.7100 Indian rupees Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise