‘Buy today’. This was the emphatic recommendation made by private investor Hemant Gupta with regard to Victory Projects Ltd (now renamed as TeleCanor Global Ltd) in February this year. He believed the company was on ‘the threshold of takeoff’ and that its scrip provided ‘huge upside’ potential, making a robust case for investing in the Hyderabad-based payment gateway service provider. Markets were in turmoil then, with shares trading at ridiculously low levels. Mr Gupta suggested buying the scrip immediately, even hinting that it may provide a phenomenal 50% return within a couple of weeks. Several months since then, Mr Gupta is now making an even stronger case for avoiding the company, making serious allegations of cheating against the promoter through a strongly worded article trying to expose the promoter’s alleged shenanigans.
In what appears to be another investor-promoter relationship turning sour, Hemant Gupta has accused the promoter, Maruti Ram, of conning him to increase stake in the company. He has accused Mr Ram of siphoning off his money for self-serving purposes. The company on its part claims that Mr Gupta has tried to manipulate the share price of the company by unleashing malicious propaganda. The company has said that it may also consider filing a defamation case against Mr Gupta. However, Mr Gupta has vehemently denied receiving any notice from the company regarding the same.
In his tell-all article in Informed Investor, Mr Gupta revealed that he had pumped funds into the company in 2008 when it barely had resources to make salary payments to its employees. “An investment banker introduced me to the promoter. That time, the company had no business and no money to pay even the salaries (of its employees). I liked the concept of payment gateway as it had good potential,” said Mr Gupta. However, more than a year has passed and the company has apparently made no headway in the payment gateway business.
Mr Gupta claims that the company Board had decided to issue 7.84 lakh equity shares and 12 lakh warrants in his favour, a resolution to which effect was passed on 22nd June 2009. He had made a payment of Rs1.26 crore towards the same. He now alleges that the company neither issued any shares and warrants nor refunded his money—it instead used the money for the company’s business.
As per SEBI guidelines, an investor is supposed to pay application money within 15 days of passing the resolution; however since the company needed funds urgently to fund its payment gateway business, Mr Gupta made initial payment towards the application much earlier than the stipulated period.
Mr Gupta has also alleged that the promoter has siphoned off Rs60.27 lakh by way of salary. The promoter’s wife, who is also the director of the company, has taken Rs47.92 lakh as office rent. He has also alleged that the company has used various tactics to increase its share price. The company apparently attempted to convert his 4.5 lakh warrants into equity shares, but was forced to cancel the same on Mr Gupta’s refusal.
Mr Gupta also mentions in his article that TeleCanor had called a Board meeting to declare interim dividend, despite having no bank balance to refund his money or any funds to kick-start the payment gateway project. The company’s only purpose, Mr Gupta said, was to jack up share prices by misleading the investors. The Board has since announced its decision to skip interim dividend ‘since it is prudent to complete the ongoing project before such a resolve’.
Mr Gupta’s shareholding in TeleCanor was at 3.98% as on September 2008 and declined to 3.34% as on March 2009. On March 2009 he offloaded 0.04% shares in the company and subsequently increased it to 5.96% on June 2009, according to data available on the BSE website. His current holding in the company is 1 million warrants and around 5% share bought from the secondary market.
Mr Gupta’s negative stance marks a distinct U-turn from the time he talked so highly about the company. His rationale at that time sounded almost irrefutable. Financial projections appeared rosy. His main points of contention were the enormous land value and huge potential of the proposed TeleCanor Suite. The suitable location of the company’s land, he had said, would add immense value as it had been declared a Petrochem Hub. As regards TeleCanor’s product, he had stated, “TeleCanor is a unique product which has huge potential. If the company is successful in marketing the same and grabs a few prestigious clients, it can get multi-bagger valuations.” - By Sanket Dhanorkar with Ravi Samalad