Yeti Group unlikely to fully acquire Gokarna resort for now
OM ASTHA RAI
KATHMANDU, Feb 16: The Office of the Nepal Trust -- which has been entrusted to take care and dig out details of the properties previously owned by late king Birendra -- is unlikely to allow the Yeti Group, which operates Yeti Airlines, to fully acquire Gokarna Forest Resort before the issue of incomplete construction works is resolved.
The group has 49 per cent stake in the resort and has applied for acquiring the remaining 51 per cent that is currently owned by L.M. Suvir Brothers.
The trust, however, has not approved the group´s application arguing that L.M. Suvir Brothers is yet to construct 10 guest rooms, horse riding tracks, billiard and table tennis halls as per an agreement originally signed on 16 August, 1995 with Rajkiya Sampati Kosh Bibhag, the department responsible for managing the royal properties before the monarchy was toppled.
As per the agreement, renewed with Nepal Trust in 2010, L.M. Brothers needs to construct 100 guest rooms apart from horse riding tracks and billiard-table tennis halls, to fully own the resort, which boasts of Gokarna Forest Golf Club, one of the finest gulf courses in South Asia, on a lease till the end of 2025. According to Shridhar Gautam, executive secretary of the trust, L. M. Brothers has so far constructed only 90 guest rooms and, in place of 10 remaining rooms, a spacious hall. "Some other physical structures have also not been constructed," Gautam said.
According to Gautam, as per the 1995 agreement, L.M. Brothers can sell only a maximum 49 per cent of its total stake in the resort, not 100 per cent.
The Office of the Attorney General, which was consulted by the Trust for legal aspects, has said that L. M. Brothers can sell its entire stake by invoking some existing acts although it would breach the 1995 agreement.
In the last board meeting of the trust, Jaya Mukunda Khanal, then executive secretary of the trust, had briefed Home Minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar, who is the chairman of the trust, about the unfinished construction works. The trust, which almost approved the group´s application after consulting the Office of the Attorney General, has now changed its plan following Khanal´s briefing.
As per the agreement, L. M. Brothers needs to provide $ 140,000 to the government, now represented by the trust, every year till 2068 BS, $ 160,000 till 2071 BS, $ 240,000 till 2076 BS and $ 260,000 till 2081 BS for running all businesses inside the resort that is spread across about 470 acres.
L. M. Brothers, which apparently ran the resort with utmost seriousness in the early years, seems to have lost interest in managing the property previously owned by the former royals, especially, after the abolition of the monarchy. Sources at the trust say that Yeti Group that has only 49 per cent share has been more active in running the trust than L. M. Brothers.