Embattled Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy's run of bad luck seems set to continue. The bidding process for his group's prized Aamby Valley project has been shunned by potential buyers in the hospitality industry, who are keen to avoid possible controversies which an association with the Sahara Group would bring them.
A Financial Express (FE) report revealed on Sunday that interest for the super luxurious Aamby Valley resort town has been negligible among buyers, if any. Only two potential bidders are believed to have shown initial interest for the Aamby Valley project, which was put up for a Supreme Court-ordered auction by the official liquidator at a reserve price of Rs 37,392 crore.
A number of high profile celebrities have invested in the Aamby Valley project, an integrated hill city township spread over 6,761.6 acres, near Lonavala in Pune district of Maharashtra.
FE said that there is no official word as yet on the identity of the potential bidders as the entire exercise is being carried out under the strict observation of the apex court and its observers. Just two interested parties have turned up and submitted their KYC details as required for the initial steps of the auction process, officials privy to the information told FE.
The report quoted a "top consultant" as saying that the only possible buyers for the Aamby property could be from China or Japan. The consultant speculated in the report that there are indeed a couple of cash rich industrialists in India who can afford such a price tag fixed by the court but have been so far away from real estate as a business.
The official sources, who refused to be identified, declined to disclose the names of the potential bidders to FE. They said the process has just got underway and involves strict confidentiality requirements, but said the two parties appear to be representatives of two separate consortia of investors and corporate, the report said.
Multiple real estate consultants were quoted as telling FE that it is almost impossible for any single real estate player in India to buy such a huge property. As the sector has been going through a severe cash crunch, it would be difficult for potential buyers to even arrange loans from banks, the opined in the report.
The property has been described by the liquidator as an "ultra-exclusive chartered city" that includes timber chalets, modern villas, golf course, hospital, school and airport, among other amenities, the report said.
The official liquidator of the Bombay High Court published an auction notice last month inviting prospective bidders for the resort, as also two land parcels measuring over 1,700 acres. The auction process has been initiated even as a Mauritius-based investor, Royale Partners Investment Fund, has signed a pact with Sahara offering to invest $1.67 billion (over Rs 10,700 crore) by way of a loan in the Aamby Valley project, the FE report said.
But the Supreme Court had on September 11 refused to stay the Aamby Valley auction, even as the Sahara group said Royale Partners Investment Fund has agreed to provide the loan against security of 26 per cent shares of its Aamby Valley project. The Supreme Court directed the official liquidator to go ahead with the scheduled auction of Aamby Valley property in Maharashtra, as it rejected Sahara Group Chief Subrata Roy's plea for some more time.
The directions came after Roy said he had deposited Rs 533.20 crore in the Sebi-Sahara account and wanted to pay the remaining Rs 966.80 crore through cheques dated November 11, the report said.
The court had on July 25 asked Roy to deposit Rs 1,500 crore in the Sebi-Sahara account by September 7 and said it may only then deliberate upon his plea seeking 18 months more for making the full repayment of the outstanding amount to be refunded to the investors. There are several steps before the final auction will take place in Mumbai.