GV Sanjay Reddy, Vice Chairman of the conglomerate GVK, has strongly denied Congress MP Rahul Gandhi's comments that the Modi government arm-twisted GVK and "hijacked" Mumbai airport from the conglomerate and handed it to the Adani group.
"There was absolutely no pressure from the Adani group or anyone else to sell Mumbai airport," Mr Reddy told NDTV today.
Adani Airport Holdings Ltd took over Mumbai airport from GVK in July 2021.
"Let me explain the background to this transaction. You know, maybe a year before that (sale) itself, we were looking at fundraising because in our airport holding company we had raised debt nearly 10 years ago, when we acquired Bengaluru airport and that debt was becoming due. So we were talking to investors and we had tied up with three investors," Mr Reddy told NDTV.
"... They together agreed to invest in this company, which will help us prepay the debt. However, they had many conditions like any international investor would have and then we were hit by Covid. For three months, the airport business was shut and we had zero revenue. It put more financial pressure on us, and so we were trying to work with them to complete the transaction quickly. But it was not happening," said Mr Reddy, whose conglomerate has invested over $5 billion in the last 20 years into various businesses.
"So around the same time Gautam (Adani) bhai approached me and he said he has a lot of interest in Mumbai airport and whether we are willing to do a transaction with him at the same terms and conditions - the only difference being that he said he will ensure he will conclude the entire transaction in one month, which was very important for us," Mr Reddy told NDTV, denying any pressure from government agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation or the Enforcement Directorate.
On the particular allegation by Mr Gandhi in parliament that GVK was forced to sell Mumbai airport to the Adani group, Mr Reddy said, "As far as I am concerned we had done this deal with Gautam Adani because of the fact that it was the need of the company. We had to repay lenders and there was no pressure from anybody else at all. As far as other aspects of what is being said in parliament, I would not like to comment as I would not like to get into the politics on it."
"See, I know Gautam bhai for some time, and the transaction was very smooth because one thing I find with him is that he deals directly - he does not bring anybody with him. It was him and me, just the two of us. It took us about a week to be able to close everything. It was very simple, very straightforward. We did not have a lot of condition, the time frame was very specific so that we could conclude it quickly and take care of the lenders, which was the top priority. And he also gave comfort to the lenders by saying he will do this fast so they need not worry. So my dealing with him has been excellent, no issues at all. Whatever was committed, whatever was the understanding, we kept it up, we concluded," Mr Reddy said.
Mr Gandhi in parliament today alleged the government tweaked rules in favour of Adani and said that the clause that no one without any prior experience would be involved in the development of airports was done away with.
"This rule was changed by the government and Adani was given six airports. After that India's most strategic, profitable airport, Mumbai airport, was taken away from GVK using agencies like the CBI, ED, and was given to Adani by the government of India," the Congress leader alleged.
GVK has many firsts to its credit - it set up India's first private power plant in 1996, India's first six-lane toll road project in Rajasthan in 2004, and India's first private airport project in Mumbai in 2006.
The conglomerate has interests in several sectors such as energy, airports, hospitality, transportation, real estate, pharmaceuticals and technology.
(Disclaimer: New Delhi Television is a subsidiary of AMG Media Networks Limited, an Adani Group Company.)