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Bank eyes Bengal Lamp property

ICICI Bank will promote eight acres of Bengal Lamp’s property in Jadavpur, jointly with a local builder. The bank says the builder will have to invest Rs 10 crore to develop what is likely to be a residential complex.

Bengal Lamp, the first Indian-promoted company to manufacture electric bulbs in the country, is in a complete shambles. It owes banks and financial institutions several crores.

“Part of the profits from the construction will be used to repay Bengal Lamp’s creditors and ploughed into the operations of the company for its revival. The rest will be the builder’s share,” said an ICICI Bank official in Mumbai. ICICI Bank, a lender to the company, has taken the initiative to develop the property under instructions from the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR), an arm of the ministry of finance that deals with rehabilitation of sick companies.

Besides the eight acres to be developed, around 1.6 acres will be retained for use by Bengal Lamp, till it moves to a new site a year later. “Some builders are interested in buying out the property. Outright sale of the eight acres that ICICI Bank wants to develop could fetch Rs 12 crore or a little more,” says Jitendra Khaitan, of Pioneer Properties.

“The estimate is based on the fact that residential space in that locality is priced at Rs 1,400 per sq ft, and you could develop a property of around 8.5 lakh sq ft on the plot,” he explained.

The mammoth residential complex coming up on Prince Anwar Shah Road, however, could overshadow the ICICI Bank initiative to develop the Bengal Lamp property. A consortium of builders and financiers have acquired a 31-acre property from Jay Engineering, of the Shriram group, for Rs 40 crore.

Sources in the real estate market say this plot could house the tallest buildings in the city. “The builders who have acquired the plot say they are going to build a 35-storeyed residential complex, and booking for it has already begun,” they added.

But the Bengal Lamp tale could be an eye-opener for jute-mill owners and the government authorities they owe crores to. Most of the jute mills on the northern fringes of the city have huge statutory dues — mostly to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation.

These mills have hundreds of acres in surplus land, which could be sold or developed in various ways. While such disposal would not affect the running of the mills, the proceeds could be used to repay statutory dues.

Recently, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) acquired 25 acres from Baranagar Jute Mill. The company is seeking a compensation of Rs 60 crore, but the NHAI has offered to pay around Rs 21 crore for the land. A couple of jute mills in Howrah have managed to unlock the value of their unused land by developing them as residential estates.

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