New York, Aug 18 IANS | 4 months ago

The Sultan of Brunei has made a bid for New York's Plaza Hotel, Dream Hotel and London's Grosvenor House hotel currently owned by India's Sahara Group, according to a media report.

An investment vehicle affiliated with Brunei has offered to pay about USD 2 billion to acquire the three hotels, the Wall Street Journal's website edition reported citing people familiar with the situation.

Brunei with its offer is a leading contender among a handful of potential buyers, including Middle Eastern government funds, bidding on the three properties as embattled Sahara chief Subrata Roy tries to raise Rs.100 billion to return investors' money, the news site said.

The Supreme Court last Thursday gave Roy a 15-working-day extension to stay in the conference hall of Delhi's Tihar Jail court complex for negotiating the sale of his overseas hotels and assets within the country for this purpose.

The Sahara group had collected the money from millions of investors through an instrument named Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures (OFCD).

Sahara in 2012 acquired a controlling stake in the Plaza for around USD 430 million.

Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal owns a 25 percent stake in the property. It was not clear if he would maintain that stake if Sahara sells, the Journal said.

Brunei's offer would include taking over Sahara's loan from Bank of China Ltd. for the three properties, the Journal said citing people briefed on the negotiations.

Brunei officials have been in discussions throughout this summer with representatives of Sahara, people cited by the Journal said.

An agreement with a buyer could be reached as early as next month, it said.

The Journal also said that the representatives of the sultan could not be reached for comment.

The 107-year-old Plaza, perhaps the most famous hotel in the US, has been featured in movies and novels, including "The Great Gatsby" and Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest".

Hotel analysts cited by the Journal said that if Brunei acquires the Plaza, it could drag the famed hotel into the dispute, potentially damaging its business and reputation.

The sultan, along with his luxury-hotel operator, Dorchester Collection, has come under scrutiny for harsh new laws, which include death by stoning for homosexuals and adulterers, the news site noted.

These have sparked public calls in the US for the company to sell its properties, and have led to a series of boycotts of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Dorchester properties in Europe.

The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, Friday called on New Yorkers to oppose a sale to Sultan of Brunei.

(Posted on 18-08-2014)

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