Bravia Capital, Chinese firm in race to buy Aman Resorts

Written by Shubhra Tandon | Mumbai | Updated: Nov 16 2012, 08:04am hrs
Hong Kong-based-fund Bravia Capital, along with diversified Chinese conglomerate HNA, are believed to be front-runners in the race for acquiring DLF-owned hospitality chain Aman Resorts.

The deal is expected to be pegged at around $300-350 million, according to consultants. Sources say at current valuations, the deal is highly likely to go through, aided by a strong dollar that makes it cheaper for foreign buyers. The figures are much lower than the earlier levels of $500-600 million.

Apart from HNA, names of global hospitality giants like US-based Four Seasons and Dubai-based international luxury hotel chain Jumeirah have been doing the rounds as suitors for Aman. Aman was acquired by DLF in 2007 for about $400 million. A mail was sent to Bravia late on Thursday, seeking confirmation of a possible deal, and details are awaited.

DLF in an analysts call on Wednesday had said that the company is looking to close the Aman Resorts deal in the next few weeks.

HNA has a presence in airline, airport management, hotel, logistics, real estate, retail, tourism and other related industries. Bravia, under its private and public equity investments, is an investor in and sponsor of eight global businesses across the transportation, logistics and financial services industries. The company also arranges, structures, co-invests and manages investments in and financing of assets in the aviation, shipping, commercial real estate, tourism, and infrastructure sectors, according to its website.

Sources say past talks have fallen through on valuations. The dynamics of running an asset like Aman is completely different. It is not an asset that will make money in three to five years given its uniqueness of small number of rooms, rather than a big 500-room hotel. This also makes it difficult to find right buyers for it, said a hospitality consultant.

DLF has been struggling to offload Aman for a couple of years now as part of its plan to reduce its high debt.

According to experts, whoever buys Aman will buy it for long-term strategic gains and not merely as a financial investment. This will call for deep pockets.

Aman, operating unique luxury hotels, has a presence in around 15 countries including China, Cambodia, Bhutan, India, France, Morocco and the US, among others. It was founded in 1988 by Adrian Zecha, an Indonesian hotelier who got the idea of starting the chain while looking for a holiday home in Phuket in Thailand, according to information on the web. It has changed several hands since then.

The DLF share closed 3.23% up at R209.30 on Thursday on the BSE.