In what could lead to one of the biggest land transactions in the country, the Supreme Court will hear on September 16 two companies who have put in bids to acquire the entire land assets of the infamous Golden Forest India (GFIL) which is under liquidation. These two companies are Vavasi Group promoted by National Knowledge Commission chairman Sam Pitroda, and the Delhi-based real estate firm Chadha Group.
“We have received applications from these two companies for the takeover of all the assets of Golden Forests. As long as we manage to raise Rs 2,000 crore, which would benefit GFIL investors, we have no objection,” Justice RN Agarwal (Retd), chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed committee to sell Golden Forests assets told from Chandigarh. GFIL’s land assets are spread across Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
“We have forwarded these applications to the Supreme Court, which is expected to take up the matter in its next hearing on September 16,” Mr Agarwal said. The bids are far more than Rs 2,000 crore of current liabilities which includes interest of the defunct company, Mr Agarwal said.
The former judge said that nearly 110 companies, which were floated by GFIL to buy land across the country, will need to be merged with the parent company first so that a bidder can take over the land bank. “This is quite complicated… a lot of legal formalities need to be completed first,” he added.
Analysts said the land bank of around 12,000 acre is approximately valued at Rs 5,000 crore. “We have managed to sell some small portions of GFIL’s land and have received part payment. This will also need to be ratified by the Supreme Court, along with Vavasi and Chadha groups’ applications,” he said.
Golden Forest India made news in the mid-nineties when the company raised funds worth Rs 1,000 crore from over 22 lakh investors across 11 states to invest in plantation schemes. But it soon defaulted on payments to the investors. So, Sebi — which bought all plantation schemes under its purview in 1997 — moved court and initiated proceedings against the company’s promoters led by its chairman R K Syal.
As the case against the company was heard across various courts, the matter was finally transferred to the Supreme Court. Four years ago, the apex court appointed a committee under the chairmanship of retired chief justice RN. Aggarwal, with two members, one each from the Reserve Bank of India and Sebi, for the purpose of taking into custody all the assets of Golden Forest and calling for claims of creditors and scrutinizing them. The court later asked the committee to auction all the assets of the company so that the investors could be repaid.
A banker told that Vavasi is doing a due diligence of GFIL’s assets and talking to various banks to raise funds required for taking over GFIL’s assets. A questionnaire sent to Mr Pitroda went unanswered.