Lalit Suri to bag GE Hotel

Kolkata, Nov 14 | Updated: Nov 15 2005, 06:39am hrs
Delhi-based Bharat Hotels group owned by Lalit Suri is believed to have emerged as the highest bidder for the West Bengal government run Great Eastern Hotel, a 140-year old property. Financial bids of the three biddersincluding Unitech Universal and Ramuk ABwere opened at a meeting of the inter-departmental committee of the state government on Monday. The new owner, however, will have to be cleared by the state Cabinet.

The meeting was attended by finance secretary Samar Ghosh, head of internal audit of the finance department SK Roy, tourism secretary TK Burman and public enterprise department secretary Ardhendu Sen. Power secretary Sunil Mitra was an invitee to the meeting.

The government remained tightlipped about the new owner. Mr Sen said, We are not in a position to tell you. We will recommend the new owner to the cabinet and its up to it to take a decision. Bharat Hotels, however, is believed to have quoted the highest price for the property.

Earlier, in November 2001, Mr Suri, a former Gandhi loyalist, had acquired The Grand Ashok in Bangalore from ITDC. He also owns The Grand InterContinental hotels in New Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Srinagar and The Grand hotels in Udaipur and Khajuraho.

Mr Suri, a political networker and an independent Rajya Sabha MP from Orissa, bagging the deal comes as a surprise as popular speculation was that Unitech Universal of Prasun Mukherjee, an industrialist close to chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, was going to get it. Mr Mukherjee is also acting as a bridge between the state government and the Salim Group of Indonesia in various projects in Bengal.

A highly placed official of Unitech confirmed, As far as we know, we havent got it. Bharat Hotels is going to be new owner.

Mondays proceedings started with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consultant for the public enterprises department making a presentation of the technical bids. Thereafter, the financial bids were opened.