Future Group plans deals to cut debt - paper

Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:16am IST

A customer looks at consumable goods before buying them at a supermarket in Hyderabad December 1, 2011. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder/Files

A customer looks at consumable goods before buying them at a supermarket in Hyderabad December 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Krishnendu Halder/Files

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REUTERS - Future Group, India's largest retailer which owns Pantaloon Retail PART.NS, is looking to sell stakes in brands and units to raise funds and help cut the group's $1.6 billion debt, the Economic Times reported on Monday.

"We are working on 18 deals and expect to consummate many of the transactions early next fiscal (year). We will be a zero-debt company by March 2013," Future Group Chairman Kishore Biyani told the newspaper.

The group plans to raise 25 billion to 30 billion rupees by selling a minority stake in Future Value Retail, which owns Big Bazaar hypermarkets and Food Bazaar supermarkets, to a strategic investor, the paper said.

It plans to merge its electronics retail chain eZone with a services company based near New Delhi and bring in financial and strategic partners for HomeTown, its furniture retail chain, helping cut the debt of the parent company, Pantaloon, by around 6 billion to 7 billion rupees, the paper said.

Biyani could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters.

Pantaloon Retail has debt of 25 billion rupees.

Separately, Future Logistics, a group firm, is looking to raise 8 billion to 10 billion rupees from private equity investors, the paper said.

"Talks are on with three PE funds and we will be able to seal a deal within two months," Biyani told the paper.

Another group firm Future Ventures, which has invested in three dozen brands, including BiBa, Indus League, Celio and Indigo Nation, is also likely to sell some holdings, the paper said.

"We have many jewels that can be encashed to reduce our debt burden," Biyani told the paper.

Retailers in India have been hit by a slowdown after they expanded rapidly, leaving them with huge debt. Over the last two years, small retailer Subhiksha was forced to shut down while Vishal Retail (VREL.NS) sold its wholesale and retail businesses to private equity firms TPG TPG.UL and India's Shriram group.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey in MUMBAI; Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)

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