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Friday, December 31, 2010

Sahara Buys UK’s Iconic Grosvenor House Hotel for £470 million

In the first crossborder deal for the Indian hospitality sector this year and also the first one for Subrata Roy’s Sahara India, the Lucknow-based financial services-to-real estate conglomerate has acquired UK’s iconic Grosvenor House hotel for a knock-down price of £470 million (Rs 3,275 crore) from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The UK has been a favourite shopping destination for Indian companies, with several well-known assets like Tetley and Typhoo in the tea category, Cuticura, Erasmic and Nulon in cosmetics and premier auto brands Jaguar & Land Rover having been snapped up.
The 494-room luxury property on London’s Park Lane, which was once home to the Duke of Westminster, is Sahara India’s second acquisition in the hospitality sector after its 2006 buyout of Sahara Star hotel, earlier known as Airport Centaur, in Mumbai. “This acquisition is part of the major expansion plans of the group. In addition to the acquisition of Grosvenor House, London will be the gateway for Sahara to introduce some of its new business ventures internationally,” said Subrata Roy Sahara, managing worker & chairman, Sahara Group.
RBS took over Grosvenor House in 2001 after Le Meridien collapsed into administrative receivership. The bank had been looking for a buyer for Grosvenor House for the last three years. At that time, the hotel was “valued for more than £1 billion.” However, unfavourable economic conditions hit valuations hard. Roy said, “The valuation, even today, is quite high but due to a highly satisfactory due diligence by RBS and after long and strict negotiations, we have purchased it for £470 million.”
Richard Lewczynski of Blandford Goldsmith put the deal together for Sahara India, which has acquired the property through Amby Valley Ltd. Grosvenor House, which has the largest banquet hall in London, is managed by the US-based Marriott International and is positioned as a JW Marriott hotel since September 2008. However, following the change in ownership, Sahara and Marriott will jointly manage the property. The conglomerate plans to refurbish Grosvenor House by offering several facilities such as an Indian restaurant under the name Namak, a night club, swimming pool and spa.
When Subrata Roy took over Sahara Star, he gave the property a complete makeover. The five-star hotel boasts of being the world’s largest pillar-less clear-tosky dome structure complemented by India’s biggest marine aquarium. Kaushik Vardharajan, MD of HVS, a global hospitality consultancy firm, said, “The US and European hospitality sector continues to be under pressure with low room occupancy levels and dropping tariffs. As a result, valuation of hotels has declined significantly. This helps companies like Sahara to acquire properties at a discount.” Vardharajan added that in terms of capital investment, it works out better to acquire hotels abroad at a discount compared to building one in India. The cash flows kicks in immediately in a running hotel compared to a greenfield one.

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