A sweep was given by the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ) to Azure Power Global, an Indian solar energy producer in which the institution injected around 600 million CAN. The mystery still hangs over the extent of the irregularities that have shaken the company since the summer.
Specifically, the company will have a new CEO – Sunil Gupta – effective July 10, while a new finance officer is already in place. This is Sugata Sircar, recruited last fall as a director and member of the audit committee. Both of these managers are described by Azure as veterans in their respective industries.
“When you change the president and the chief financial officer on the same day, it’s because a wind of change is blowing,” says the director of the Institute for the governance of public and private organizations (IGOPP), François Dauphin . A director who returns to management, we see this less often in large companies. »
The woolen socks of Quebecers are the main shareholder (53%) of Azure, in turmoil since last August due to allegations raised by a whistleblower and the surprise departure of its big boss, who was not in post for only two months. The audited results – combed through by an independent auditor -, expected since the summer, remain unknown.
The results of the internal investigation are still awaited. This was accompanied by a warning that the company might experience difficulty in meeting its financial obligations.
Since last August, Azure’s stock – which was trading above US$48 in the winter of 2021 – has crashed on the New York Stock Exchange. Despite the changes announced on Monday, the stock retreated 5.5%, or 11 US cents, to close at $1.88. This gives a value of 64 million US (87 million CAN) to the 34.25 million shares held by the Fund.
At the Quebec government’s annual appropriations study on Monday, the president and CEO of the CDPQ, Charles Emond, had rather mentioned a “book value […] around 400 million”.
The game of musical chairs announced on Tuesday sends Pawan Kumar Agrawal, who had been chief financial officer for more than four years, to the sidelines. He is relegated to a subsidiary of the company, but keeps a job. Money laundering charges have been filed against this manager due to his past role in a financial scandal.
Mr. Agrawal had been nabbed along with around 20 other individuals in October 2021 for his alleged involvement in a money laundering scheme between 2017 and 2019 while at Yes Bank. The charges have yet to be proven in court.
In front of parliamentarians, where he reported on the management of his organization, the big boss of the Caisse once again came to the defense of Azure. When asked, Emond said you have to look beyond the stock price.
“It’s not an investment where you’re going to have a loss necessarily,” he said. The story is far from over. It is a profit-making business. For us, it is an investment that is not necessarily perfectly represented by the stock market price. »
Verification made, Azure posted losses in 2020 and 2021, according to its financial statements consulted by La Presse. As for last year, however, a profit of US 9 million was generated, according to an unaudited preliminary financial report released last January. This data must receive the stamp of approval from an external verifier.
According to Mr. Emond, Azure’s financial picture for fiscal 2022 is expected to be released in the “coming weeks.” The company must do so by mid-July to avoid being debarred from Wall Street.
Azure announces the unexpected departure of its boss and potential internal irregularities. Its stock plummets 44% on the New York Stock Exchange.
We discover new skeletons in the closet at Azure. The company warns that it could run out of money to finance its projects. The internal investigation is continuing.
The extent of the internal irregularities is still unknown, but a new boss and a finance manager are appointed.