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Thursday, Sep 25, 2003

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Efforts to rope in more participants — Hotel experience waived for Delhi Centaur bidders

Ashwini Phadnis

New Delhi , Sept. 24

IN an effort to ensure that more parties participate in the disinvestment of the State-owned Delhi Centaur Hotel, the Government has decided that having previous hotel experience will not be a prerequisite for those putting in bids.

The Government is also likely to stipulate that any individual party or consortium bidding for Centaur Delhi must have a combined networth of at least Rs 25 crore as per the last annual audited accounts. Similarly, for the flight kitchen in Mumbai, Chefair, the combined networth of the party or consortium bidding is likely to be pegged at Rs 2 crore.

While the Delhi Centaur is a 376-room luxury hotel, Chefair Mumbai is a flight kitchen located close to the international airport. The Government is likely to insist on providing the details of the joint venture or consortia being formed for the purpose while submitting the Expression of Interest (EoI); any change or substitution may be permitted only after getting prior permission of the Government or Air India.

The disinvestment process for the Delhi Centaur and Chefair Mumbai is expected to proceed soon with advertisements calling for Expression of Interests appearing shortly. In an effort to make the working of the Delhi hotel more profitable, the management has already offered a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to workers to prune excess manpower.

The Centaur Hotels and Chefair flight kitchen is owned by the Hotel Corporation of India (HCI) which is a 100 per cent subsidiary of AI. HCI used to operate five hotels, including two in Mumbai, and one each in Rajgir (Bihar), Delhi and Srinagar. While the two hotels in Mumbai and Rajgir have been divested, the process is likely to be completed in Delhi and Srinagar soon, sources indicated.

Earlier, the disinvestment of the Centaur Hotel in Mumbai ran into trouble, with the successful bidder for the Airport Centaur Hotel, the A.L. Batra group, selling the property to the Sahara group within a short period of acquiring it.

However, despite the controversies, HCI posted a profit of Rs 170 crore last year and paid a dividend of Rs 20.30 crore.

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