Sahara India keen to come in ‘a big way`

Indian business conglomerate Sahara Group has made up its mind to hugely invest in Bangladesh amid high expectation that its multi-million dollar schemes in low-cost township, health and hospitality sectors would move the nation’s competitiveness to a new height.

Insiders say the group’s chairman, Subrata Roy Sahara, with his roots in Bikrampur near the capital, Dhaka, is expected to visit Bangladesh later this month with a formal outline of his investment plan.

Sahara has reportedly finalised an initial plan of investing 80,000 crore rupees in five separate township schemes near Dhaka.

The group, which continues to hit news headlines for its passion for backing Indian cricket and acquisition of an iconic hotel in London, is attempting to expand its focus in sectors such as education, retail, mining, oil exploration and banking.

Sahara bought the Grosvenor House Hotel in London in December 2010 for $726 million. In 2004, the group was termed by the Time magazine as ‘the second largest employer in India’ after the Indian Railways.

It is a long-time sponsor of the Indian national cricket team but recently said it was withdrawing that support because of differences with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Apart from eyeing Bangladesh for investment, the group has made its effort to enter Africa with mining options.

But for now, Sahara Group is more inclined to go ahead with its Rs 80,000-crore township schemes in Bangladesh.

Several meetings have already been held between the group’s representatives and Bangladeshi officials while a concrete shape is expected when a high-level delegation led by the group’s chairman will meet prime minister Sheikh Hasina during his planned visit.

The team has a plan to meet with Board of Investment executive chairman and also with the public work and housing minister.

Initially, chairman Sahara was supposed to arrive in Dhaka on Apr 20 but the timing is being reset as the prime minister is not available that time because of her trip abroad.

The group has already shown its interest in pouring money in modern but low-cost township schemes during meetings with BoI, said a local contact who preferred not to be named pending the group chairman’s official announcement sometime soon.

He said on Wednesday that the investment would be made under a new company in Dhaka, and work is going ahead in full swing to make it happen.

The group’s representatives held several meetings with BoI, the latest on Mar 11 when they discussed mainly how the investment could be made and under which law and regulations, he said.

An official with knowledge of the planned investment told on Wednesday that Bangladesh’s steady economic growth, investment friendly environment and opportunity to contribute in low-income housing with financing options and self reliant integrated townships have attracted Sahara to come to Bangladesh.

“The chairman being an emotional gentleman with his roots to Bikrampur helped our initiative to promote Sahara’s investment in Bangladesh,” he said.

“His 90-year-old mother has pushed him (the group chairman) to go ahead with Bangladesh plans,” the official said.

Earlier in a report, Times of India had quoted Sahara as saying that Sahara India Pariwar would invest big time in Bangladesh.

“We are going into Bangladesh in a big way. I have finalised work of Rs 80,000 crore,” the Times of India quoted Sahara as saying.

“It is a country where we have lots to do. I have sent the proposal to the Bangladesh PM for the New Dhaka project and hope to meet her,” he said.

The group said they just want “a sovereign guarantee” to pursue the Bangladesh plan.

He said the group has already selected 40 sq kilometers of land, about 50 kilometres from Dhaka, to begin with.

“We will get the land, build our own structures and sell it,” said the chairman of the group, which has real estate assets worth Rs 85,000 crore.

It has earned fame by building a hill station in Maharashtra from scratch–Aamby Valley.

Sahara Group has businesses in hospitality, real estate financial services, mutual funds, life insurance, media, film production, sports, information technology, healthcare, commodity sales and services and consumer products.

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