L&T stocks lose 3% before recovery on Sebi refusal for buyback

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Mumbai, Jan 21 (IANS) Shares of engineering and construction conglomerate Larsen and Toubro (L&T) fell on Monday by over 3 per cent in opening trade over market regulator Sebi’s denial of permission last week for the company’s Rs 9,000-crore share buyback offer.

The L&T stock, however, recovered during the day to close flat at Rs 1,314.20 a share, down 0.31 per cent, or by Rs 4.05, on its previous close on the BSE.

In a regulatory filing with the stock exchanges on Saturday, the company said the regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has asked it not to go ahead with the buyback.

In a letter to L&T, the regulator said the buyback offer is not in compliance with Sebi rules as well as the Companies Act “since the ratio of the aggregate of secured and unsecured debts owed by the company after buyback (assuming full acceptance) would be more than twice the paid-up capital and free reserves of the company based on consolidated financial statements”.

L&T had proposed to buy back up to 6.1 crore shares from shareholders at a price of Rs 1,475 per share, aggregating to Rs 9,000 crore. The offer was open to those holding equity shares as on October 15.

Reacting to the development, analysts said that Sebi scrapping the buyback could impact the return on equity (ROE) estimates for the next fiscal.

“L&T had considered standalone FY18 financial statements. However, Sebi had considered consolidated financials – this difference in interpretation led to cancellation of buyback,” Japanese brokerage Nomura research report said on Monday.

“We estimate that the scrapping of the buyback could impact our RoE estimates by 150-165 bp over FY20F/21F. However, the impact may be limited to some extent in the case of a special dividend.

“Special dividend is an alternative since buyback option is effectively ruled out post Sebi ruling,” the report added.

Describing Sebi’s buyback refusal as a negative surprise,JP Morgan said: “Better than expected core P&L (profit and loss) performance in Q3 may assuage worries around execution.”

Reacting to the developments Goldman Sachs said it sees this as a potentially negative news flow for L&T as this was one of the steps to be taken by the company to reach its target ROE of 18 percent by FY21. Any potential buyback could have further helped L&T reach its ROE target. It expects the company to proceed with its plans to meet its ROE target, including the sale of its electrical and automation division.

While broakrage firm Macquarie said, “L&T can explore alternative methods to redistribute excess capital.”

Adding that it believes the regulator’s view to consolidate debt of L&T Financial Services is too conservative. Knee-jerk reaction possible, but it would create an opportunity to buy the stock. Company could reaffirm its stance of distributing excess capital to shareholders.

CLSA said that the regulator is mistaken in looking at consolidated financials, particularly when L&T has not guaranteed the debt of L&T Finance-47 per cent of consolidated debt.

“Given its focus on return-on-equity enhancement, it thinks L&T’s board could approve a one-time large dividend (about Rs 53 a share) this week. This would help L&T’s ROE to expand (120 basis points in FY20 versus current estimates,” added CLSA.

–IANS

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