United Spirits (USL) will monetise non-core assets including treasury shares, properties and smaller non-core companies and use the proceeds to pare debt. Executives at India’s largest spirits maker said the sales could help raise R2,000 crore in the next couple of years. USL chief financial officer Sanjeev Churiwala told analysts on Wednesday the firm was looking to sell about 13 properties to former chairman Vijay Mallya as per an agreement with him. “We are also looking to sell treasury shares of USL valued at R900 crore and some non-core companies,” he said.
Churiwala said debt was reduced from R8,000 crore to R4,200 crore. “We should be able to earn at least R1,000 crore this year by selling assets,” the CFO said. About 3.5 million treasury shares of the company valued at Rs 900 crore are currently under litigation. UK-based Diageo acquired USL in 2012 and holds a 54.8% stake.
As part of its settlement arrangement with Mallya, the company agreed that Mallya or his nominee would have a limited-period option to purchase up to 13 non-core properties from the company.
Mallya has the first right of refusal on these properties, which are valued in excess of R2,500 crore. The company is in the process of obtaining independent valuation for these properties, which are located in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Hong Kong.
Anand Kripalu, managing director and CEO of USL said the company is looking to cut costs by reducing the debt. “The money saved is being invested in brands, sales, people and we hope to add back a little to our operating margin. I believe that businesses like ours should save a per cent or more every year on a sustained basis,” Kripalu told analysts.
He added the company’s philosophy was to post double-digit growth and expand operating margins. “This combination will deliver more value to our shareholders,” he said.