Tatas make $1.86 bn offer to buy Orient Express Hotels

Tata group firm Indian Hotels Company Thursday said it will make an offer to acquire US-based Orient Express Hotels, which owns a chain of luxury hotels in US and Europe.

Updated: Oct 19, 2012, 08:50 AM IST

New Delhi: In a second attempt to take control of US-based Orient Express, Tata group firm Indian Hotels Thursday made an USD 1.86 billion offer to acquire the international luxury hotels operator.

Indian Hotels, which holds about 7 percent in Orient Express Hotels, termed the all-cash offer as "compelling".

The all-cash offer of USD 12.63 per share is at a 40 percent premium to Orient-Express' closing stock price traded on NYSE on October 17. The offer by Indian Hotels along with Charme II Funds includes the hotels operator's debt burden.

Following the offer, shares of Orient Express soared over 28 percent on the New York Stock Exchange to USD 11.62.

Once the transaction materialises, the deal would create one of the world's major portfolios of luxury hotels and resorts. Indian Hotels operates the iconic Taj properties in India and abroad.

"We believe this premium all-cash offer represents a compelling and immediate value proposition for Orient-Express' shareholders and provides Orient-Express with access to the additional capital necessary to preserve its properties and heritage while potentially expanding its footprint," Indian Hotels Vice Chairman R K Krishna Kumar said.

In 2007, Tata group had attempted to increase its stake in the US entity but the efforts failed due to stiff opposition from the then management of Orient Express.

The latest offer by Indian Hotels comes just months ahead of Group Chairman Ratan Tata's retirement in December, 2012. Cyrus Mistry will succeed Tata.

Indian Hotels in its letter to Orient Express has said it was "disappointed that your board of directors has indicated they would not be interested in exploring a transaction involving a significant equity investment by IHCL".

However, the letter said IHCL continues to believe that a transaction between the two organisations is both financially and strategically compelling to respective shareholders.

According to Indian Hotels, Orient Express would remain an independent and autonomous company with its own board of directors.

Krishna Kumar said Indian Hotels has great respect for Orient-Express and its collection of unique luxury hotel properties worldwide.

"We are very excited at the prospect of bringing our two great companies and brands together," he added.

A shareholder for over five years, Indian Hotels holds around 7 percent of Orient-Express' Class A stock.

The Tata Group firm plans to finance the acquisition of 93 percent stake in Orient Express through a combination of debt and equity.

The company said it has an agreement with Montezemolo & Partners an important Italian company directly owned by the Montezemolo family, which is the Manager of Charme II Funds.

Charme II Funds would be a minority shareholder in the Special Purpose Vehicle set up for the transaction, it added.

High-profile international acquisitions of Tata group including that of Jaguar Land Rover (in 2008) and Corus Steel (2007).

Ratan Tata-led Tata group, which has over 100 operating companies, raked in total revenues of USD 100 billion in the 2011?12. About 58 percent of the revenues came from overseas businesses.

PTI