BR Shetty appoints restructuring firm to holding company BRS Ventures

Duff & Phelps assigned to deal with liabilities incurred by family group interests

BR Shetty, founder of the NMC Health and Finablr businesses, appointed a restructuring firm to the Abu Dhabi-based holding company that owns stakes in the rest of his businesses, BRS Ventures.

In a statement on the company's website, Dr Shetty said that he, along with his son Binay Shetty and BRS Ventures "have retained the services of restructuring experts Duff & Phelps", whose managing director Richard Clarke will lead the work.

New York-based Duff & Phelps will "support their efforts in dealing with financial liabilities related to their family group interests, including, but not restricted to, indirect exposures to NMC and Finablr debts", the statement said.

Mr Shetty began his business in Abu Dhabi in 1975 with NMC Healthcare, which grew to become the biggest privately-owned healthcare group in the UAE. He subsequently diversified into other industries including financial services, growing the UAE Exchange foreign exchange business and acquiring UK-based competitor Travelex to create the Finablr forex and digital payments group.

BRS Ventures holds his stakes in both companies as well as in other investments including the pharmacy distribution business Neopharma, catering company Royal Catering and the Assam Tea Company in India, among others.

At its peak in 2018, NMC Health was valued at £8.58 billion ($11.32bn) and Finablr floated on the London Stock Exchange at a value of £1.23bn in May last year.

However, both businesses began unravelling following publication of a report by activist investor Muddy Waters Research in December last year that said NMC Health had inflated its assets and under-reported debts. This sparked an investigation that led to billions of dollars worth of undiscovered debts at both companies.

Investigators at NMC Health subsequently discovered about $4bn worth of unreported debt, taking the total to $6.6bn, and Finablr discovered about $1bn of unreported debt, bringing its total to $1.3bn.

NMC Health was placed into administration in April in London, with its UAE businesses appointing administrators in September.

At Finablr, lenders took over the Travelex business to embark on a restructuring in July and the UAE Exchange business effectively stopped trading in March following an intervention by the Central Bank of the UAE.

A deal was announced for Finablr to be bought by Prism Advance Solutions on October 6 but this has yet to be finalised.

In July, following a case brought against Mr Shetty by Credit Europe Bank claiming he had defaulted on a loan, a worldwide freezing order was placed on his assets, including his stakes in Finablr and NMC Health by the Dubai International Financial Courts.

UK lender Barclays has also filed a case seeking the recovery of $130m from Mr Shetty, arguing he had provided an unlimited guarantee for funding it provided to UAE Exchange.

Mr Shetty has blamed former management at the companies for perpetrating fraud that involved the forging of his signature on billions of dollars worth of cheques and loan agreements. He has been based in India since February but vowed last month to return "imminently" to the UAE with a view to clearing his name.

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