Mumbai: A Supreme Court-ordered auction process for embattled Sahara Group’s luxurious Aamby Valley resort town began on Monday, with the official liquidator inviting bids at a reserve price of Rs37,392 crore.
Sahara, which pegs the project’s market valuation at over Rs1 trillion, said the liquidator has initiated only first two steps of the auction by issuing advertisement for interested bidders and verifying their KYC (know your clients) and the sale would be withdrawn if Rs1,500 crore is deposited before the next date of hearing in the Supreme Court.
The property, described by the liquidator as an “ultra- exclusive chartered city", includes timber chalets, modern villas, golf course, hospital, school and airport, among other amenities.
The official liquidator of the Bombay high court published an auction notice on Monday inviting prospective bidders for the integrated hill city township spread over 6,761.6 acres near Lonavala in Pune district, 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, last week said it has offered to invest $1.67 billion (over Rs10,700 crore) in the Aamby Valley project.
Reacting to the publication of notice, Sahara’s advocate Gautam Awasthi said in a statement there are several steps before the auction takes place. Referring to the Supreme Court’s direction last week, he said it allowed official liquidator to execute initial two steps of auction process of Aamby Valley.
“The first step is to issue an advertisement for seeking an invitation of the interested parties and the second step is of verifying the KYC of the interested parties. Beyond these, the Supreme Court has not directed any steps till the date of next hearing," he said.
Awasthi said Sahara had moved an application before the Supreme Court seeking permission for entering into an agreement with Viktor Koenig UK Ltd with the nominee Royale Partners Investment Fund Ltd for inviting an investment of $1.67 billion into its Aamby Valley project.
Stating that the court has permitted Sahara to enter into negotiation with this investor and deposit Rs1,500 crore before the next hearing, he said, “The Supreme Court has also said that if Rs1,500 crore stand deposited before the next date, then the auction process will be withdrawn".
In reply to an emailed query by PTI, RPMG Investment, which owns this fund, had also confirmed the proposed funding.
Last week, the Supreme Court had said the auction process can start on 14 August, as scheduled, after the group requested for the auction to be postponed till 16 September to enable Sahara group chief Subrata Roy arrange the money.
The official liquidator said in the auction notice that the prospective bidders need to submit their KYC forms and on qualification they will have to submit bids along with 15% of the reserve price as earnest money. The properties on auction include an integrated hill city township spread over 6,761.642 acres in the great Sahayadri mountain range, 1,409.865 acres of land surrounding Aamby Valley City Development and land measuring 321.656 acres within the Satara district.
The liquidator said the properties are being sold under two distinct phases over a period of two days, as an alternate to each other, “given the quantum of the properties to be sold". About the resort town, the liquidator said: “The ultra- exclusive chartered city has residential options ranging from the Timber Chalets to fabulously modern and customised villas in distinct architectural styles and several amenities such as golf course, airport, hospital, adventure sports, retail, entertainment, international school and hospitality".
It also said the properties being auctioned will be sold /leased along with all subsisting licences, consents, permissions, registrations, approvals, grants and pending applications (as applicable) as per the Supreme Court order of 25 July 2017.
Sahara lawyers had told the court that hotels in New York have been sold and soon money would be coming into the Sahara account after which Rs1,500 crore would be deposited into the Sebi-Sahara refund account by 7 September, as directed by the court.
Sahara has been engaged in a long-running battle with the capital market regulator Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India). The apex court had on 25 July asked the Sahara chief to deposit Rs1,500 crore in the Sebi-Sahara account by 7 September and said that it might then deliberate upon his plea seeking 18 months more time for making complete repayment.