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China's HNA Group bids for DLF's Aman Resorts

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China-based conglomerate, HNA, has joined the race to buy Aman Resorts, the biggest non-core asset of realty major DLF, according to analysts and bankers.

The 68 billion-RMB group, which is into airlines, hotels, airport management, real estate, retail and tourism, is learnt to have offered above Rs 2,000 crore for the resorts.

The bid amounts received from others, including Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah, luxury fashion group Louis Vuitton and Kingdom Holdings, which owns the five-star hotel chain Four Seasons, were in the range of Rs 1,800 crore to 2,000 crore, investment banking sources said.

spokesperson, Sanjey Roy, in an email reply, said, "We do not comment on market speculations."

DLF, the largest realtor in the country by market capitalisation, is expected to announce the Aman Resort deal by mid-January. Goldman Sachs and Citi Group are advising it. The founder of Aman Resorts, Adrian Zecha, will be a part of the final decision, a person close to the development said.

About the resort's sale, Saurabh Chawla, executive director (finance), DLF, had said after the July-September results, "We have four bids in the second round and are in the process of evaluating them. We hope to make a closure on this deal by the next quarter end."

DLF had bought 97 per cent stake in the company for a valuation of $400 million (Rs 2,120 crore according to the current rupee value) in 2007, during the realty boom, while the remaining three per cent remained with Zecha. Since the downturn in the sector, DLF has been looking for a buyer for this property.

An analyst tracking the company said, "They have been looking for a buyer for the last two years as it aimed to raise Rs 2,500 crore." None of the interested parties so far have offered that kind of money, it is believed.

It is important to know whether it is an all-cash deal or will there be staggered payments, an analyst pointed out. Last week, Crisil had downgraded DLF's various short-term debt programmes, based on its assessment the debt levels may continue to remain high due to delay in disposal of non-core assets and weakening cash flows. "They have to sell the assets now and generate cash on their books," the analyst said.

Hotels and Resorts is part of the HNA Group based out of China and is headed by Chen Feng, the board chairman. It operates 40 luxury hotels and resorts in China and has three hotel assets in Brussels and Belgium.

The has 25 assets across Thailand, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, France, Indonesia, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, Philippines, Sri Lanka, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the US. It has three properties in India. After the stake offloading, DLF will retain the Delhi Aman property. The other two assets are in Rajasthan — the Aman-i-Khas and Amanbagh — which would change hands.

DLF's stock closed at Rs 179.15 per share, down 2.13 per cent on Bombay Stock Exchange on Monday. The 30-share index closed at 15,517.92, up 0.41 per cent.

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