Gitanjali Still Interested in Whitehall

MUMBAI—As Whitehall Jewelers bankruptcy negotiations continue, the head of the Gitanjali Group said Saturday he remains interested in buying a large piece of the jewelry retail operation.

In an interview with JCK at the India International Jewellery Show, Mehul Choksi, Gitanjali Group managing director, said he is still interested in purchasing up to 150 stores.

“We are shopping to buy,” Choksi said Saturday on the show floor. “We are very keen to buy.”

He added, “At the same time we are not in a hurry.”

Court papers filed by Whitehall list 17 stores as “potential going concern” sales, being sought by New Zealand retailer Michael Hill, according to sources.

Choksi described the bankruptcy proceedings regarding the Chicago-based jeweler as “getting very messy.” And it is playing a major role into whether he will be able to buy the stores. His hesitancy is also related to his belief that there may be two more bankruptcy opportunities for the Mumbai-based jewelry company.

“I feel that it will be six months to one year (for the bankruptcies to occur),” he said, adding that the U.S. jewelry industry is facing “very difficult times.”

Gitanjali owns the Samuels jewelry chain in the U.S. The company, a DTC sightholder, is a diamond and jewelry manufacturer and retailer, with vast holdings that include approximately 20 retail brands in India and approximately 175 retail outlets in the Middle East, China, and Japan.