Balmer Lawrie To Tie Up With Kuoni To Beef Up Tourism Biz

Kolkata, September 25: | Updated: Sep 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The government-owned Balmer Lawrie & Co Ltd plans to enter into a strategic alliance with Switzerlands Kuoni for strengthening its tourism division, according to Balmer Lawries managing director and acting chairman PK Bishnoi.

Kuoni owns SITA Travels and SOTC in India, and has vast experience in organising international tourism. For Balmer Lawrie, tourism is one of its three main businesses, apart from manufacture of steel drums and barrels, and greases and lubricating oils.

Mr Bishnoi said the company has not decided whether to form a separate company with Kuoni, but pointed out that the tieup will be part of its policy of seeking strategic alliances.

Briefing reporters after the 85th annual general meeting here Wednesday, Mr Bishnoi said the company plans to reduce its interest cost from Rs 35 crore in 2001-02 to Rs 20 crore during the current fiscal.

Balmer Lawrie reported a net profit of Rs 8 crore on a turnover of Rs 721 crore during 2001-02, against over Rs 6 crore on a turnover of Rs 744 crore in the previous fiscal.

Admitting that the international tourism industry is in bad shape following the terrorist attacks in the US of September 11, 2001, he said the lull cannot continue for ever.

Balmer Lawries leather chemicals division was also looking some sort of marketing tie-up, and is in talks with a Fortune 500 company. The agreement will be signed shortly, maybe in a couple of days. However, he declined to name the company.

As for the governments decision to sell 33.58 per cent of its stake of 59.58 per cent in Balmer Lawrie, Mr Bishnoi said the final bids could be invited by March 2003.

Out of the 18 companies or consortiums that have expressed their intention for picking up the stake on offer, around 12-14 are likely to be called for bidding as they meet the criterion.

It has been decided that a single company with a minimum networth of Rs 100 crore would be allowed to bid. In case of a consortium, the consortium leader should have a minimum net worth of Rs 51 crore, and the other members together a minimum of Rs 49 crore.

Balmer Lawries Chennai-based subsidiary, Indian Marine Freight Container Manufacturing Ltd (IMFCML), which is now under the referrence of the Board for Industrial & Financial Reconstruction, would be liquidated. Although it has world-standard equipment, it failed to withstand the Chinese onslaught. China, which enjoyed only five per cent of the international freight container market ten years ago, now enjoys 95 per cent of the market.

All the employees of IMFCML have already been given voluntary retirement benefits.