March 20, 2020: Mangalorean billionaire BR Shetty has flown to India as legal problems continue to mount in his UAE-based companies NMC Health and UAE Exchange, sources familiar with the matter told Arabian Business.
“He isn’t in the country for long now. I guess it’s been close to a month that he isn’t here,” sources said, adding that there are at least five active legal cases against Shetty and NMC Health.
The 77-year-old was one of the first Indians to make his fortune in the UAE’s healthcare industry when he set up NMC Health in the 1970s and grew it to become the country’s largest operator of its kind before listing it on the London Stock Exchange in 2012.
In 1980, he founded one of the Emirates’ oldest remittances businesses UAE Exchange which went public in 2018 under owning company Finablr together with UK-based exchange company Travelex and several smaller payment solution providers.
Shetty’s business interests spread beyond healthcare and financial services and saw him invest in hospitality, food and beverage, pharmaceutical manufacturing and real estate.
But it all came tumbling down in December last year when short seller Carson Block of Muddy Waters Research wrote a damning report accusing NMC Health of fraudulent asset values and theft of company assets.
In a matter of just three months, NMC’s shares were suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange and two weeks ago it announced that its debt levels have risen to nearly $5 billion, with over $2.7 billion in facilities that had not been disclosed to or approved by the board.
This week Bloomberg reported that Abu Dhabi-owned insurer National Health Insurance Co, known as Daman, is helping NMC pay overdue bills, according to people familiar with the matter, by speeding up payments to the operator so it can pay salaries and other invoices.
Moreover, UAE Exchange this week stopped new transactions through its branches and online platforms as the Central Bank of the UAE announced it has opened an investigation into the remittance house and will oversee its operations management.
The exchange house’s mother company Finablr hired an adviser to prepare for potential insolvency proceedings as the London-listed firm works with an unidentified accounting firm on “rapid contingency planning,” according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.
Shetty’s personal assets in the UAE include two floors in the world’s tallest tower the Burj Khalifa and a number of villas in the Palm Jumeirah.
In September last year, he told Arabian Business, “Challenges are always there, but when you’re straightforward and quality practice, there are no challenges. We are number one…
“This is all the result of hard work and optimism. Always optimism. I’m telling you, you should be always optimistic.”