Sahara hotels in London, New York attract Gulf billionaires
Apr 29, 2014
Source : The Economic Times


MUMBAI: Sahara's luxury hotels in London and New York are drawing interest from Gulf billionaires. The Al Thani's, members of the Qatar royal family, Global Investment House —one of Kuwait's largest investment banks — and MBI International which is controlled by billionaire philanthropist Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber had offered to buy the hotels Dream Downtown and The Plaza in New York and Grosvenor House in London. The ownership of these properties is with Aambey Valley (Mauritius), an offshore arm of the embattled Sahara group.

Sahara was made initial offers of £1.2 to 1.4 billion by these parties, according to three people close to the development. One of the bidders was willing to pay £850 million for Grosvenor House, the 424-room hotel in central London that was once residence to Dukes of Westminster.

Even though Sahara may not have any immediate plan to sell the properties, Sushanto Roy, Sahara chief, Subarata Roy's son, is believed to have made frequent trips to London to figure out the offers. Responding to ET's email query, a Sahara spokesman said, "This entire news about any sale or bids pertaining to any of our overseas properties is completely unfounded and totally incorrect." "The fact is that currently, we don't have any such plans. Therefore, publishing of any such incorrect news will not only be detrimental to our image but would also severely harm our business interests," said the person.

However, in November 2013, Sahara disclosed that it had received an offer of £1 billion for Grosvenor House following a news report that aSaudi business group was willing to pay .`10,000 crore for all the three hotels. Sources told ET that the party concerned was MBI International which had offered over £1.2 billion. A few months later, Global Investment House had stepped in with an offer of £1.3 billion for the hotels. The bid was mainly on behalf of members of Kuwait's Al Sabah royal family, said a source.

Emails to Global Investment House and MBI International went unanswered till the time of going to press. More recently, the Al Thani family of Qatar has expressed its interest with a higher offer, said the source. Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani controls Al Faisal Holding, a Doha-based conglomerate that operates about 50 businesses in nine industries.

Through Al Faisal and its publicly traded subsidiary Aamal Company, Al Thani owns a collection of luxury hotels and commercial real estate properties in six countries. He has a net worth of at least $2.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. An email to Aamal Company also did not evoke any response. Hypothetically, if Sahara strikes a deal with the highest bidder, it will end up with a net gain of Rs 6,000-7,000 crore -- almost four times the combined acquisition cost - after paying off $1billion that was borrowed from Bank of China against the hotels.

Sahara had bought 85% stake in Santh Singh Chatwal's Dream Downtown which has 315 loft-style rooms and suits. It also bought a controlling stake in The Plaza with 230 rooms, then owned by Elad Properties, an Israeli-owned real estate company. Properties, an Israeli-owned real estate company.

Both these New York properties fell into the Sahara kitty for close to $800 million. Bank of China's total credit facility against Grosvenor is $476.83 million (£305 million). Besides this, the bank extended a combined loan of $465.850 against The Plaza and Dream Downtown. ET had reported last year that the Chinese bank has reportedly been asking questions about the possible repercussions of Sahara's feud with Sebi.

The Supreme Court had asked Sahara to deposit Rs 10,000 crore in cash and bank guarantees for release of Subrata Roy, who has been in Tihar jail for more than a month now. A week ago, Sahara offered to pay Rs 3000 crore immediately and the balance Rs 7000 crore in installments. Roy was jailed after Sahara failed to refund, with interest, Rs 24,000 crore raised from investors.





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