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India Needs to Stop the IL&FS Rot From Spreading

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A tad late, but the message is finally reaching India's regulators: Infrastructure lender IL&FS is not a business that can be allowed to fail without consequences. An unusual Sunday evening joint statement by the securities regulator and the central bank suggests a much-needed awareness of systemic risks.

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. is a sprawling nonbank institution that used its highly rated paper to chalk up $12.5 billion of debt, which it funneled into the financing of long-term assets like roads, townships and water-treatment plants. Most of these businesses are owned by IL&FS-linked operating companies.

The opacity masked growing liquidity problems, though only up to a point. Some of the group's finance companies are now missing repayments on short-term paper, even as the unlisted parent's owners, including state-run Life Insurance Corp. of India, dawdle over an emergency infusion of funds.

The task of highlighting the systemic risks fell to equity markets. Dewan Housing Finance Corp. led the carnage on Friday when its shares fell more than 42 per cent. (They were down almost 60 per cent at one stage.) Most other shadow lenders, which make........