Sahara gets unsolicited offers for hotel assets

Sahara gets unsolicited offers for hotel assets

Embroiled in a major crisis back home, Indian conglomerate Sahara has got unsolicited offers for at least three prized assets — London’s Grosvenor House and New York’s Plaza and Dreams Downtown hotels.

While the group is open to sale of these properties if some really good offer comes its way, the existing offers have been dismissed outrightly as they appear to be made with a view to cash in on the group’s current crisis, sources said.

When contacted, a senior Sahara official in India also confirmed that some “unsolicited” offers have been received for overseas hotel properties, but the group has made it clear to them that these assets are not for sale.

While refusing to disclose the size of these offers and the identity of the parties interested, the official said that the group does not want to sell these assets as of now and it would consider any such move only if it gets “extraordinarily” high bids for these iconic assets.

The sources said however that some of these offers are in fact at discount to the price at which Sahara had actually purchased these assets and value the group’s holding in all three properties at $1-1.5 billion (Rs 6,000-10,000 crore).

While exact identity of interested parties could not be ascertained, investment bankers and consultants claiming to be exploring a deal said that their clients include entities from Middle East and India, as also some Indian-origin foreign nationals. They are also pitching these properties before investors in the US and the UK itself.

The three hotels were purchased over the past few years for about $1.5 billion and managed by third party hotel management companies. The acquisitions were funded by loans from various banks, while Bank of China got a significant exposure after it refinanced loans from some other banks.

There have been speculations that Bank of China is also concerned about its exposure in the wake of ongoing controversy that Sahara group has got embroiled into, but officials at the group vehemently denied any apprehensions on the part of the bank or that of other business partners.

In Plaza hotel, Sahara group holds 75 per cent stake, while the remaining 25 per cent is with Kingdom Holding Company, an investment vehicle of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. There was also speculation that Saudi Prince might be interested in buying back the 75 per cent stake he had sold to Sahara.

Queries sent to Bank of China and Kingdom Holding remained unanswered. The cross-border transactions through which these acquisitions were funded are under the scanner of Indian regulators.

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