IHCL, GIC strike Rs 4,000-crore deal to acquire premium hotels in India

One of India’s largest hotel chains, Indian Hotels Company (IHCL), has tied up with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC to jointly acquire premium hotels in the country. The initial outlay of deal is pegged at Rs 4,000 crore for a period of three years with GIC contributing 70 per cent and IHCL pitching in with the rest.

Each acquisition will be housed under a separate special purpose vehicle (SPV) and will be branded and managed by IHCL. The SPVs will acquire fully operational hotels which will also include distressed or underperforming hotels that can be turned around.

Puneet Chhatwal, managing director and CEO of IHCL, said: “The investment platform will acquire strategic and marquee assets that need new ownership branding and positioning.”

The new partnership is in line with IHCL’s asset light business model with about 40 per cent of the current rooms it operates falling under this model. The company has been increasing the management contract pie consistently over the past few years.

For GIC, the investment offers an opportunity to create a hospitality portfolio in major destinations across India. Kok Sun Lee, chief investment officer of GIC Real Estate, is confident of the outlook for India’s hospitality sector. “The partnership will offer GIC attractive opportunities and capture the sector’s growth potential,” he said.

Analysts believe the partnership is a win-win for both, especially given the long gestation period for the sector. “An investor with deep pockets such as GIC will help share the investment risk and will add to IHCL’s revenues both from management fees as well as branding,” says an analyst at a domestic brokerage. Given the increasing delays in execution for greenfield projects and poor returns from the same, major hotel chains, including IHCL, are now preferring to acquire or run hotels under the management contract model.

The total inventory in the premium category (luxury, upper upscale and upscale segments which will be acquired under this partnership) is pegged at 118,000 rooms and the segment is growing at 3-4 per cent a year. While there are opportunities, analysts believe that the initial capital may not suffice, as 500 rooms in this category would cost upwards of Rs 1,500 crore, considering that the cost per room of Rs 3-4 crore. The positive for the partnership, however, is that conditions are conducive given the uptick in the demand cycle and muted supply.

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