SEBI imposes Rs 5.25 cr fine on Cairn India in share buyback case
Market regulator SEBI on Wednesday imposed a penalty of Rs 5.25 crore on Cairn India for making a misleading announcement regarding the buyback of shares in 2014. In addition, the regulator levied a fine of Rs 15 lakh each on P Elango, who was the CEO and director of Cairn, Aman Mehta, who was the director on the company’s board, and Neerja Sharma, who was director (risk assurance) and company secretary, Sebi said in an order.
These three officials had signed the public advertisement regarding the buyback in January 2014 and facilitated the company in making the misleading announcement. After a detailed investigation, Sebi found that Cairn did not place adequate buy orders despite the availability of adequate sell orders at NSE.
It further noted that Cairn was not able to fulfil at least 50 per cent of the buyback issue, despite the conditions were favourable to the company.
“… Cairn by not placing adequate buy orders despite the availability of adequate sell orders at NSE had perpetrated a fraud by making a misleading announcement regarding buyback of shares designed to influence the decision of investors and to induce sale or purchase of securities,” Sebi said in its 41-page order.
By making the public announcement of a buyback without any intent to fulfil it, the entities have acted fraudulently and violated the provisions of PFUTP (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices) norms as well as buyback norms, it added. Cairn had made a public announcement on January 14, 2014, for buyback of 17,08,95,522 equity shares of Rs 10 each at a maximum price of Rs 335 apiece for Rs 5,725 crores from the open market.
The buyback offer was scheduled to open on January 23, 2014, and close on July 22, 2014. Cairn informed that till June 27, 2014, it was able to buy back a total of 3,67,03,839 shares, which represented 21.48 per cent of the maximum buyback shares utilising a total of Rs 1,225.45 crore or 28.59 per cent of the maximum buyback size.
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It was noted that Cairn was not able to utilise the minimum amount of 50 per cent of the buyback size as required under the Sebi Buyback Regulations. Therefore, it had sought an extension of the buyback period, which was not acceded by Sebi.
Subsequently, in July 2014, Cairn had submitted that it could not achieve the minimum amount of 50 per cent of buyback size as required under the rules. Further, the company had made an application to Sebi to release the cash escrow (Rs 143.125 crore), containing 2.5 per cent of the buyback size. Pursuant to this, the regulator had conducted an investigation into the matter. Cairn India merged with Vedanta Ltd in 2018.