NMC administrators pursue claims against EY and former directors

Legal letters before action have been issued within the past three weeks, Alvarez & Marsal document shows

FILE PHOTO: General view of NMC specialty hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Satish Kumar/File Photo
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The administrators of NMC Health have sent legal letters before issuing claims against the company's former directors and ex-auditor EY.

"These claims have the potential to generate significant recoveries for the estate," administrators Alvarez & Marsal said in a progress report.

"Given the complexity and uncertainty surrounding the investigation and recoverability of claims, we consider that a meaningful estimate of dividend prospects for unsecured creditors cannot be made at this time," the report added.

NMC Health was founded in 1975 by BR Shetty and grew to become the UAE's biggest private healthcare company. It was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2012 and was valued at £8.58 billion ($12.1bn) at its peak in August 2018.

However, an independent investigation early last year sparked by a report in December 2019 from activist investor Muddy Waters uncovered more than $4.4bn of previously-undeclared debt.

"This remains an active, substantial investigation with fast-growing dynamics," the administrators' report said, adding that a legal letter before claim was issued to former auditor EY on April 30 and that letters "in respect of certain claims against directors" were being issued by May 7.

"In addition, our investigation ... continues to attract information requests from various regulators and law enforcement agencies including the Serious Fraud Office, Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice, Financial Conduct Authority and Financial Reporting Council. Our cooperation with these agencies is ongoing," it added.

Auditor EY confirmed that it "has received correspondence from the administrators to NMC Health indicating an intention to pursue a claim", a spokeswoman told The National. She declined to comment further.

ABU DHABI - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - 22JUNE2016 - Dr. B.R Shetty the Indian billionaire and head of NMC talks about his relationship with Late Sheikh Zayed at his office in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National (to go with Shareena AlNuwais story for News)
ID: 69483 *** Local Caption ***  RK2206-ShettyandZayed10.jpg
BR Shetty, the founder of NMC Health and Finablr, in 2016. Ravindranath K / The National

NMC Health's former directors and principal shareholders are already facing legal action from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which was the company's biggest lender. It secured a worldwide freezing order on their assets in the UK in December and obtained another freezing order on Mr Shetty's assets in the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts last month.

Alvarez & Marsal was appointed as administrator in April last year and to date has racked up more than £18.5 million of time costs, spending more than 36,700 hours on the case at an average rate of £505 an hour, the report showed.

Administrators have so far added more than 19 million records of information from the group and third parties to its investigation database and "millions" of accounting entries continue to be analysed.

"These tasks are substantial and the level of work necessary will continue to be extensive as we seek to recover value," administrators said. The administration period for NMC Health has been extended for another 12 months until April 2022.

Administrators have already realised $106m in sale proceeds from the sale of the Boston IVF business last month. Other assets have also been sold off as they focus on the company's core healthcare operations in the UAE and Oman.

A twin-track process involving a lender-led restructuring or a sale of the business is currently being pursued.

Administrators said last month that the restructuring could lead to about $4bn of the company's $6.4bn of debt being wiped out, but added that this would most likely generate the best return for creditors, who need to vote on the proposal by June 15. If the restructuring plan does not get sufficient support, a sale will be pursued but this "is likely to yield a significantly lower recovery", a presentation document sent to lenders last month said.