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Investors sue Indian private equity firm ICICI Venture over losses-Reuters

(Reuters) – A group of 69 non-resident Indian investors said on Tuesday they had sued India’s ICICI Venture at the Supreme Court in Mauritius seeking to obtain $103 million in damages over alleged losses on their investments in a property fund run by the private equity firm.

ICICI Venture, a unit of India’s biggest private sector lender ICICI Bank Ltd with more than $2.5 billion in assets under management, dismissed the allegations as “totally baseless” and added it would “take necessary steps” to respond to the legal proceedings.

The investors said in a statement they had suffered “huge losses” on their investments in the Dynamic India Fund III run by ICICI Venture, saying only one of its 13 projects in India had been completed as of March, nine years after the fund was incorporated in Mauritius.

The investors added the fund had “invested in real estate projects that flopped miserably, instead of world class ones as the marketing teams promised.”

The group, which filed its lawsuit in July, further accused the fund of engaging in “total neglect of due diligence,” of under-estimating cost and completion time of projects, and of also engaging in “overt manipulation of the finances” to escalate costs.

Besides ICICI Venture, the group also sued ICICI Bank, the Dynamic India III fund trustee Western India Trustee and Executor Co Ltd, as well as the administrator of the fund, International Financial Services Ltd.

ICICI Venture denied the allegations, noting it had extended the lifespan of the Dynamic India Fund III by three years, and had offered investors a cash exit option that was “in line with global best practices.”

“The allegations levelled by a set of investors, constituting only 12 percent of the investors in the concerned funds, are totally baseless, not supported by facts and are malicious,” ICICI Venture said in a statement.

“It is common knowledge that globally PE (private equity) as an asset class does not guarantee returns given the equity risks involved. Also, projects in real estate have a long gestation period and hence the returns accrue over a period of time,” it said.

The other companies named in the suit could not immediately be reached for comment.