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Indian Hotels Ltd eyes partners for overseas assets

The Indian Hotels Co Ltd may take on partners for some of its international properties to free up cash for other acquisitions.

business Updated: Jun 20, 2007 15:59 IST

The Indian Hotels Co Ltd may take on partners for some of its international properties to free up cash for other acquisitions, a senior company official said.

India's largest hotels operator, which owns the Taj group of luxury hotels and resorts, has bought hotels in the United States and Australia in recent months, and has said it was looking to also expand in China, South Africa and the Middle East.

"We don't need to fully own all our assets internationally, and we are in talks with like-minded partners to co-own some of them," said Chief Financial Officer Anil Goel.

"It is an idea we want to explore, as it will release liquidity that's key to our growth," he told reporters late on Tuesday after reporting the company's fourth-quarter earnings.

Indian Hotels will hold the majority stake in a partnership with real estate or hospitality firms, he said.

The Mumbai-based company, a part of the Tata Group, in April bought the Hotel Campton Place in San Francisco for $60 million. Last year, it bought the The Ritz-Carlton Boston hotel and renamed it the Taj Boston.

Indian Hotels, which also has a management contract for The Pierre in New York, is building a Taj Exotica resort and spa in Doha, in Dubai and in Phuket, all scheduled to open in 2008. A Taj luxury hotel in Cape Town will also open in 2008, Goel said.

The company, which also owns the Ginger chain of budget hotels in India, owned 81 hotels in the year to March 2007, adding up to 9,901 rooms.

Net profit for the January-March quarter rose 71 percent to 1.35 billion rupees ($33 million) from a year earlier, helped by higher average room tariffs as demand for hotels was boosted by a buoyant economy and more tourists, Goel said.

About 4.6 million tourists visited India in 2006/07, a 15 percent increase from the previous year, Goel said, helping push up average room rates by 15-44 percent in major cities. Revenue per available room rose by an average of 30-49 per cent.

"There's been a fair amount of supply at lower price points, but that hasn't affected demand for luxury hotels," Goel said.

Demand would remain buoyant this fiscal year, as demand still exceeded supply, he said.