Duncans plans to sell estate in Darjeeling

KOLKATA, DEC. 24. The cash strapped Duncans Industries, the flagship of the Rs. 2,000 crore G. P. Goenka group, plans to sell its Marybong tea estate in Darjeeling, according to sources.

Duncans has already forwarded a proposal for transferring the lease in favour of the Ashok Lohia group to the lead banker State Bank of India. The company registered a turnover of Rs. 800 crores in the 18 months ended March 2003.

Duncans, having large outstandings with the banks and financial institutions, was reportedly trying to sell this estate for the last one year. The sources said that earlier the company had negotiated the sale of the particular garden with prospective buyers twice. Both efforts, however, did not materialise as banks and FIs raised several objections. Accordingly, Duncans continued to hold the estate.

While the fate of the current proposal is yet to be decided by banks, none of the parties involved (Duncans and Lohias) were available for comment on the issue.

The sources, however, said that the deal was proposed at a price of about Rs. 4.50 crores at a price of Rs. 270 a kg. Spread over 284 hectares, Marybong, known as one of the best estates in Darjeeling, records a crop between 1.6 lakh and 1.8 lakh kg.

A low-key player, the Lohias (regarded as a planter of high calibre), together with Kailash Tibrewal, a newcomer in the industry, is on an acquisition spree for the last one year and recently emerged as the single largest producer of Darjeeling tea.

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