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DLF, India’s largest real estate developer, has appointed Goldman Sachs as an advisor as it attempts to find buyers for Aman Resorts, a luxury hotel chain it had acquired in November 2007 for $400 million.

DLF, which was hit hard by the downturn in the realty market which started in the middle of 2008 and continued well into 2009, has said it will exit from noncore business and become a zero-debt company over a three-year period. Its current debt is at Rs 12,500 crore.

The company is looking at divesting other businesses such as wind energy and has already sold its asset management business. “As part of a new strategy, DLF has decided to exit from the non-core businesses and focus on real estate development including residential, commercial and retail. Since hotels are not a core business for DLF, the company is looking at various option for Aman Resorts. However, the structure of divestment will depend upon the valuation that the potential suitors will bring on the table,” said a senior executive of the company on condition of anonymity. Currently, DLF owns 97% stake in Aman Resorts, and its founder Adrian Zecha, the rest. The company is looking at an enterprise value of $600 million(around Rs 2,700 crore), said the official. The company is open to selling the entire stake, said another senior official of the company involved in the process.

When contacted, DLF spokesperson Sanjoy Roy refused to comment. “As a policy, we do not comment on market speculation,” he added.

Another official said the company had originally told its foreign partner Mr Zecha, to bring in a strategic partner. “DLF had given time till February 2010 to Mr Zecha to bring a strategic partner or financial investors, which did not materialise within the stipulated time. As a result the company has itself initiated the process of divestment,” said the official involved in the process.
Spokespersons of Goldman Sachs could not be contacted.

DLF had acquired Aman Resorts, a chain of 23 premier hotels across 12 countries for $400 crore in the third quarter of 2007. In addition, the company had made additional investment on refurbishing the old Lodhi hotel in Delhi, which is known as Aman Lodhi.

The total cost of this asset would be in the vicinity of $600 million. “The company is certainly not going to divest this asset at a loss,” said an official. The company is known to charge one of the highest average daily room rates that ranges upward of $750. It also operates three resorts in India—one in New Delhi and two in Rajasthan.

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