7 Jan :In the country’s biggest corporate fraud involving about Rs 8,000 crore, iconic IT company Satyam was hurtling towards disaster following the shocking disclosure of accounts fudging by its founder Ramalinga Raju, who then quit as chairman – leaving an uncertain future for the company and its 53,000 employees.
By the end of the day, the fourth largest IT company lost a staggering Rs 10,000 crore in market capitalisation as investors reacted sharply and dumped shares, pushing down the scrip by 78 percent to Rs 39.95 at BSE. The NYSE-listed firm could also face regulator action in the US.
The government, regulator SEBI and the industry reacted with shock and anguish over the turn of events that could tarnish India’s corporate and raise vital issue like ethics, corporate governance and accounting and business practices.
Acting in tandem, Corporate Affairs Ministry and SEBI announced that the episode would be probed and action taken against the perpetrators of the fraud that entails inflating profits and creating fictitious assets.
"I am now prepared to subject myself to the laws of the land and face consequences thereof," Raju said in a letter to SEBI and the Board of Directors, while giving details of how the profits were inflated over the years and his failed attempts to "fill the fictitious assets with real ones."
The Maytas firms, although promoted by his family, proved to be his nemesis, with Raju saying: "The aborted Maytas acquisition deal was the last attempt to fill the fictitious assets with real ones… But that was not to be. What followed in the last seven days is common knowledge."
While the government said the entire issue would be referred to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, SEBI described it as an event of "horrifying magnitude."
"It was like riding a tiger not knowing how to get off without being eaten," said Raju.
As a first step, SEBI on Wednesday has ordered an investigation into affairs relating to buying, selling or dealing in shares of Satyam to ascertain if any regulatory provision was violated. Besides, it ordered inspection of Satyam Computer (books).
Giving details of the irregularities, Raju said the company’s balance sheet as of September 30 carries "inflated (non-existent) cash and bank balances of Rs 5,040 crore (as against Rs 5,361 crore reflected in the books)."
It also carries "an accrued interest of Rs 376 crore which is non-existent, understated liability of Rs 1230 crore on account of funds arranged by me, overstated debtors position of Rs 490 crore (as against Rs 2651 crore in the books."
The USD 2-billion Satyam also reported a revenue of Rs 2700 crore for the September quarter and an operating margin of Rs 649 crore (24 percent of revenue) as against the actual revenue of Rs 2112 crore and an actual operating margin of Rs 61 crore (3 percent of revenue).
"This has resulted in artificial cash and bank balances going up Rs 588 crore in Q2 alone," Raju said, adding that the gap in the Balance Sheet has arisen purely on account of inflated profits over a period of last several years.
Satyam, meanwhile, said Board member Ram Mynampati has been appointed interim CEO.
"We are obviously shocked.. immediate priorities are to protect interest of shareholders, protect the careers and security of its approximately 53,000 associates..," Satyam said in a statement.
A shocked industry called for deeper regulation. "This fraud on the investors and employees… shows a systemic breakdown in audit and board oversight… questions will need to be asked," FICCI President Rajeev Chandrasekhar said.
FICCI and CII, however, said the Satyam episode should not be seen as a blot on all the Indian firms.Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta said stern action would be taken under the law.
SEBI orders probe into Satyam market operations
Startled by the disclosure of fudging of accounts by Satyam founder B Ramalinga Raju, market regulator SEBI on Wednesday ordered probe into share market operations and inspection of the IT company.
"SEBI has ordered an investigation into the affairs relating to buying, selling or dealing in the shares of Satyam Computers," it said in a release on Wednesday.
The probe follows a letter written by Raju in which he disclosed that "accounts provided to the stock exchanges were not true".
The investigation, SEBI said, will ascertain whether any provision of the Act or regulation has been violated.