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Taj will exit non-core assets, and focus on hotels

Mumbai: India's largest hospitality chain Taj will step up the sale of its non-core assets. The aim is to reduce liabilities and focus on long-term value opportunities in its core businesses, said Puneet Chhatwal, CEO of the parent Indian Hotels Company (IHCL). Taj had raised about Rs 500 crore from the sale of non-strategic assets such as residential apartments and hotels (in Visakhapatnam and Thiruvananthapuram) in the last four fiscals.
It is looking to further prune its non-core asset portfolio and has put on the block a plot in Gurugram (which it had bought to set up a laundry unit), farmland (also in Gurugram), and a land parcel in Pune. While Chhatwal didn't put a number to the divestment target, he said that these assets were purchased linked to the requirement at that time but now they don't fit in the chain's revised strategy.
The revised strategy is to streamline the portfolio, scale up new businesses (Ama Stays & Trails and Qmin food delivery app & restaurants), strengthen the balance sheet, and step up profitability. Taj had raised about Rs 175 crore from the sale of residential apartments. Chhatwal said that the proceeds from the sale of the Visakhapatnam hotel were used to repay Rs 125 crore of debt in Oriental Hotels, a listed company in which IHCL owns 29%.
IHCL has a gross debt of Rs 450 crore but has slashed its net debt to zero in fiscal 2022. A 'zero net debt' status is attained when a company's cash equals the debt on its books.
While IHCL made losses during the last two fiscals because of Covid-induced travel restrictions, Chhatwal hopes the company regains pre-Covid level performance in the current fiscal.

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