NMC’s debt now estimated to be $6.6bn

The company’s obligations include 75 facilities from over 80 financial institutions

An emergency department sign sits on display outside the NMC Royal Hospital, operated by NMC Health Plc, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, March 1, 2020. Troubled NMC Health Plc, the largest private health-care provider in the United Arab Emirates, asked lenders for an informal standstill on its debt as Abu Dhabi weighs an injection of capital to safeguard the emirate’s reputation among global investors. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
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NMC Health's debt is now estimated to be around $6.6 billion (Dh24.23bn), higher than the $5bn revealed earlier this month and substantially higher than the $2.1bn last declared in its accounts, the company said on Tuesday as it appointed a new chief restructuring officer to sort out its finances.

The company owes money through 75 debt facilities to over 80 financial institutions, NMC Health said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange, where its shares trade. This includes a $360 million convertible bond and $400m sukuk.

“NMC is continuing to work with its advisers to understand the exact nature and quantum of the undisclosed facilities, including the circumstances in which they were obtained,” it said.

“The board believes that some of proceeds may have been utilised for non-group purposes and work is commencing on a project to trace such proceeds with a view to considering what actions may be available to the group to recover such monies.”

In its latest revelation, NMC said $300m of the debt identified was known to  the board as at its last regulatory filing for the six months to June 2019. However, $800m had been newly-identified and was not disclosed in its last accounts. An additional $400m had been borrowed post-June 2019. Neither of the last two amounts had been approved by the board.

The company said the board had also been informed of $50m worth of cheques that had been written by group companies "which may have been used as security for financing arrangements for the benefit of third parties", according to the statement.

"The existence of these cheques has only recently been brought to the attention of the board and urgent investigations are ongoing,” the company said.

NMC Health has also appointed Matthew Wilde as chief restructuring officer to look into the company’s debts. Mr Wilde has worked on restructurings in the Middle East at Al Jaber Group, Dubai World, DryDocks World and Carillion in recent years, both as an independent practitioner and as a restructuring partner at PwC.

"We are delighted that Matthew has agreed to join the group at this critical time. As one of the Middle East region's most seasoned CROs, we are certain that his expertise and experience will bring significant benefit to the group as NMC develops a plan to address the group's financial indebtedness,” Michael Davis, interim chief executive of NMC Health, said.

The company also said Prasanth Shenoy has resigned as chief financial officer with immediate effect following a period of extended leave for ill health. In the short term, the company has appointed a director of finance from internal resources and PwC will continue to support the company's finance function, it said.

The disclosure on Thursday is the latest in a string of revelations emerging from one of the largest healthcare providers in the UAE since the publication of a report from activist investor Muddy Waters Research in December. The US company claimed NMC had inflated cash balances, overpaid for its assets and understated its debt.

The healthcare company denied the allegations and in January appointed Freeh Group International Solutions to look into the allegations.

NMC has since reported that some of its principal shareholders had misstated the size of their shareholdings, leading to the departure of the company’s founder and former joint chairman, BR Shetty, and former executive vice chairman Khalifa Al Muhairi.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority also launched an investigation into NMC's activities.

The company dismissed its former chief executive, Prasanth Mangath, last month.