Taj Hotels wants to turn asset light with its sell-and-lease-back strategy

Taj Hotel in Delhi celebrates its 40th anniversaryIANS

  • Indian Hotels — the hospitality arm of the Tata Group that includes the Taj Hotels — is planning to put its properties under sale and lease back.
  • Six of the Ginger hotels are already in line along with other hotels that come under joint ventures or associated companies.
  • Indian Hotels is planning on becoming ‘asset light’ as the Indian economy cools off and consumer spending is starting to slow down.
Tata Group’s Taj Hotels aren’t going anywhere but some of its more budget offerings — like the Ginger hotel chain — are getting sold off but will be leased right back to them.

Indian Hotels, the hospitality arm of the Tata Group that owns and operates the Taj Hotels, is looking to reduce its ownership of properties to 50% by 2022, as it wants to turn ‘asset light’. It has around 45 properties it owns under the Ginger brand, but wants to shed some weight by offloading 5-10% of the properties, and continue to operate it.

As part of our Aspiration 2022 business strategy we are pursuing an asset light model. In line with this we propose to sell and lease back some of our Ginger properties in non metro towns. We will continue to operate these properties under a management contract after the proposed sale.

IHCL Company Spokesperson

Retaining flagship properties

The Managing Director and CEO of Indian Hotels, Puneet Chhatwal, told Bloomberg that while the company is looking to reduce its debt by getting rid of some of the budget hotels in its portfolio — the legacy and flagship properties, namely hotels within the Taj brand, aren’t up for grabs.

However, as many as six of the Ginger hotels are already a part of the sale and lease-back plans. What this mean is that Indian Hotels will be selling the properties and then taking them up on rent so that the current management stays in place. This is also true with other hotels that are a part of joint ventures or under associate companies, according to Chhatwal.

On the other hand, Indian Hotels also opened up three new hotels in key strategic markets like Goa and Agra as per last quarter’s earnings report.

It has also launched a new hotel brand called ‘SeleQtions’ to up its brand image. SeleQtions includes named and distinctive hotels as well as Chambers — India’s most iconic business club.

Cutting down on debt

India’s economy is cooling down and consumer spending is set to fall further, which is why Indian Hotels is looking to lighten its assets. Even, Jet Airways going out of business hit the Tata-owned enterprise, forcing the company to write off some of its dues.

Indian Hotels has been on the path to reduce its debt for a while. It has gone from ₹31 billion in 2017 to ₹20 billion as of March 2019.

Tata Group’s Indian Hotels isn’t the only brand under the umbrella that’s being revamped. Tata Steel and Tata Motors are also restructuring their portfolio to gain some headwind in the European markets.

Note: The article has been updated to include the statement from IHCL spokesperson to clarify that they will still be operating Ginger hotels and the headline has been changed accordingly.

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