Raffles Hotel to have new owners again?

A BRITISH newspaper report has sparked off talk that Singapore’s Raffles Hotel could change owners yet again, for the second time in four years.

Citing unnamed hotel industry sources, the Times of London reported yesterday that Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI) — in which Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company has a controlling stake — is putting the iconic property on the market for £300 million ($669 million) because of huge investment losses suffered by the billionaire Arab owner.

When contacted yesterday, the hotel said FRHI’s head office in Toronto, and not Raffles’ local office, deals with such developments. A Fairmont representative who was contacted was not able to respond by press time.

The report, which was picked up by several news media including Bloomberg and Arabianbusiness.com, said the proposed disposal is in response to the plunge in value of some of his biggest investments — which has seen the Prince’s wealth fall from US$21 billion ($31.4 billion) to about US$13 billion over the past year, according to Fortune magazine. The main cause is said to be his 5 per cent stake in Citigroup.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed analyst who is “intimately acquainted” with Prince Alwaleed’s affairs as saying: “He’s having a very challenging time.”

The billionaire is even looking for a buyer for The Savoy, London’s most famous hotel, according to another British paper, The Evening Standard.

The 121-year-old Raffles Hotel and its adjacent shopping arcade were snapped up in 2005 by United States-based private equity group Colony Capital for $1.7 billion. It was later merged with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts to form FRHI — owned 60:40 by KHC and Colony respectively.

Last May, a consortium led by former Credit Suisse banker Mark Pawley was to have bought the Grand Dame for an estimated $650 million, but the proposed deal fell through at the final hour.

Source : Today – 17 Apr 2009

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