HDFC Bank has launched preliminary discussions to evaluate a potential sale of top LED lighting solutions firm Syska Led Lights Private Ltd, in a bid to recover debt, multiple people with knowledge of the matter told Moneycontrol.
The move comes on the back of the government encouraging domestic manufacturing of lighting solutions and planning a PLI (production-linked incentive) scheme for LED lights as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.
Syska Led Lights Private Ltd is part of Pune-based SSK Group, which is a key distributor for Samsung phones in India.
“Syska Led’s business was hit due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and HDFC Bank as lead lender is now trying to find a buyer for the firm due to its debt burden. Alternatively, the firm may also explore a fund raise through the private equity route by selling a minority stake, though this has been attempted earlier,” said one of the persons cited above. Moneycontrol could not independently verify the exact indebtedness of Syska Led.
Another person privy to the talks said early feelers have been sent to strategic suitors for the proposed deal. "Though this transaction, an existing player in the segment can use Syska Led’s wide retail distribution network, save on distribution costs and improve margins or they can plug gaps in their portfolio, in case they are weak or not present in the LED lights space,” this person said.
Key players in the domestic LED lighting segment include Havells, Bajaj Electricals, Crompton Greaves Consumer, Wipro Lighting and Philips.
Two other persons confirmed the sale plans.
All four spoke to Moneycontrol on the condition of anonymity.
In response to an email query from Moneycontrol, a spokesperson for Syska said , “At the onset, Syska LED has not mandated HDFC Bank for any negotiation / deal. Additionally we would like to affirm that HDFC Bank does not hold any stake in Syska LED as the Company is fully owned by its promoter’s family. Syska LED business EBIDTA has almost doubled during FY 21 as compared to FY 20. Hence the story is not only misinformative but also damaging for our organization Syska that is currently on a growth trajectory."
“In response to an email query from Moneycontrol, an HDFC Bank spokesperson said, “We would like to clarify that the Syska Led Lights Private Ltd account is entirely regular in our books. There is no question of the Bank exploring any move, including a stake sale, to recover the debt.”
Syska Led was founded in 2012 and its portfolio also includes smaller verticals like accessories, consumer home appliance, wires, cables and personal care products. The company had gained popularity after a successful TV advertising campaign featuring late Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan.
In November 2019, there were reports that Syska Led was in talks with private equity firms to sell a minority stake and deleverage the firm’s balance sheet.
THE GOVERNMENT’S LED PUSH
In 2015, the government launched the UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Lighting for All) scheme to reduce LED bulb prices along with the Street Lighting National Programme, which has replaced more than 13 million conventional street lights.
Budget 2021 raised the customs duty on the import of LED light components as the government sought to nudge the lighting market players in India to shift to procuring components locally and boost the ‘Make in India’ programme. However, the ELCOMA ( Electric Lamp & Component Manufacturer’s Association) wants duties to also be imposed on completely imported LED lights, according to a February 8 report by Moneycontrol.
A report dated February 27, 2020 on group company Shree Sant Kripa Appliances Private Limited by Acuite Ratings & Research said “the group has a strong pan India presence with more than 1,000 distributors and over 1,00,000 dealers across the country. Acuité believes the long standing relation with its wide-based distributors and dealers will help the company distribute its own products under 'SYSKA' brand such as LED lights, mobile accessories and other products.”
In recent times, there has been a gradual shift in consumers who are warming up to eco-friendly and energy-efficient lighting options like LED lights. According to industry estimates, the Indian LED lighting market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.3 percent between 2020 and 2025.Note To Readers: The article above was updated with the addition of detailed official statements from both HDFC Bank and Syska, which were sent to Moneycontrol 18.5 hours and 3.5 hours respectively after the original version was published. Moneycontrol had reached out to Syska for comment through email and followed up by sending multiple reminders earlier but did not receive a response at the time of publishing the original article. After the article was published, Syska responded with a statement that began: “Unfortunately, the story is misrepresented with grave factual errors ...” Moneycontrol did also not receive a response from HDFC Bank at the time of publishing the original version.