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Tale of a Nauru white knight

Mumbai, April 30: True, Indians are going places. But an Indian bailing out the sovereign government of a country'

Well, it has happened. Or has it'

The President of Nauru, Rene Harris, has announced that the Mumbai-based Hiranandani group has saved his nation from near bankruptcy.

And guess what, Niranjan Hiranandani, who heads the real estate group, does not know he has performed this act of benefaction.

Harris was quoted as saying in a report that the group has taken control, but not ownership, of a property portfolio owned by the South Pacific nation. In return, the Rs 500-crore Indian company had supposedly agreed to pay off a $172-million debt Nauru owed US-based General Electric Capital Corp.

The report said Nauru — which once boasted of the world’s highest per capita income because of its tiny population and rich reserves of rock phosphate — had offered the Indian group control of properties that included hotels in Sydney and Melbourne and a shopping mall in Sydney.

Niranjan sounded incredulous. “We have nothing to do with that country. I think there’s a mistake.”

“My son Darshan (who is 21) will be thrilled to hear this as he is very fond of Australia. It sounds so good,” he added. He admitted that there was no other real estate group by that name in Mumbai and the report could only be referring to them.

The report said the Hiranandani group had appointed Australian barrister John Foley to head the joint venture with Nauru. It quoted Foley as saying: “Long term, we aim to restructure the entire portfolio to provide a basis on which to establish an economic reconstruction of the tiny island and save the jobs and future of its citizens.”

Hiranandani said: “I don’t recall having met Australian barrister John Foley, but I cannot rule it out.”

The President of Nauru gave the Hiranandanis a glowing character certificate.

“We’ve had all kinds of companies in the past claiming to be white knights,” Harris said. “We have decided that this is a different white knight. We believe he is … fair dinkum.”

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