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Investment vehicle eyes flagship Sahara hotels in $2 bn bailout for Subrata Roy

An investment vehicle expects to ultimately take control of landmark hotel assets like New York`s Plaza after the conglomerate fails to repay lenders.

Mumbai: An investment vehicle lining up a $2 billion package to help bail the boss of India`s troubled Sahara out of jail said it expects to ultimately take control of landmark hotel assets like New York`s Plaza after the conglomerate fails to repay lenders.

Saransh Sharma, a San Jose, California-based investor leading the rescue plan, told Reuters in an interview he doesn`t think Sahara will be able to pay off the more than $1.5 billion it plans to borrow to cover bail terms for Subrata Roy, one of India`s most flamboyant businessmen. Sharma said that will help his fund, Mirach Capital Group, take over the hotels at a bargain price.

Roy has been held in a New Delhi jail for more than 10 months over Sahara`s failure to comply with a court order to refund billions of dollars invested in outlawed bonds.

"Let`s say they somehow manage to make the interest payments, what is the probability of them coming up for the principal? The answer is slim to none in my opinion," Sharma said. Mirach Capital was set up specifically for the Sahara transaction, he said.

"It is an indirect way to take over these assets and not just take over these assets, to take over these assets at a valuation which would be discounted to the true market value."

Sahara said earlier this month that it was in talks with Mirach Capital, which says unidentified wealthy families in the U.S. and Britain are among its investors, hoping to raise the fund by remortgaging for one year its three overseas hotels, which include Grosvenor House in London.

Sahara is confident of meeting its repayment obligations to lenders using hotels earnings, its head of corporate finance Sandeep Wadhwa told Reuters. He added Sahara was in the process of seeking transaction approval from India`s central bank.

India`s Supreme Court, which last year asked Sahara to pay $1.6 billion to release Roy on bail, this month authorised the group to raise funds by remortgaging its overseas hotels.

Sharma, who said the talks with Sahara are exclusive and that he has visited Roy in jail 9 times, said the amount for Sahara transaction was already in an escrow bank account.

Besides the roughly $1.5 billion loan against overseas hotels, Mirach Capital will also make a $450 million equity investment in two of Sahara`s India properties, he said.

The vehicle has no previous public record of closing a large financing deal. According to its internet site, its investors are "family offices" operating in diverse sectors including real estate and aviation.