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Four Seasons sets sights on Goa, Hyderabad

Canada-based luxury hospitality brand Four Seasons, after having put Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore on its radar, is now turning its spotlight on two other destinations in India — Goa and Hyderabad.

In Delhi, where the company has signed a letter of intent for a property being set up by real estate major DLF, Four Seasons is not picking up any equity stake though it is following a business model in India of investing in projects as circumstances dictate — typically, on a minority basis.

Elizabeth Pizzinato, vice-president, public relations, told DNA Money through email: “There are many opportunities for growth in India and we are open to looking at cities and destinations where it would make sense for our brand to have a presence. That would include places such as Goa and Hyderabad.”

Overall, Four Seasons is looking at about six hotels in India. The first Four Seasons hotel, coming up at Worli in Mumbai is being developed by Magus Estate & Hotels, part of the Jatia Group.

Of the $90 million investment in this property, Four Seasons is learnt to be investing about $7.5 million. The Jatia Group will hold about 74% in this project.

Four Seasons’ investment in the Mumbai hotel is consistent with its practice around the world of making only minor capital investment in its hotels.

The hospitality chain that manages 74 luxury hotels across the world is part-owned by billionaires such as Bill Gates, Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal and its chairman and CEO, Isadore Sharp.

Sharp and his family own a significant share in it and is said to be involved in the chain’s operations and strategy.

Madhumita Mookerji/ DNA India

Heritage village resort on an expansion spree

Heritage village resort, Chokhi Dhani is on an expansion spree. Subhash Vaswani, managing director, Chokhi Dhani, informed, "We are planning to set up 15 locations by 2008 from current seven. We are in the process of acquiring land in four strategic locations and signing up for franchise in four more locations in the next three months."

The new locations include New Delhi, Kolkata, Agra, Nasik, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Hyderabad. He further informed, "We are also looking to expand in some locations in Middle East and South Pacific Asia."

Chokhi Dhani Resorts started in Jaipur in 1989 and is spread over an area of 10 acres. Today these resorts have expanded to various parts of India including Indore, Pune, Mumbai, Panchkula, Surat, Haridwar and Jaisalmer. The resorts not only provide luxury accommodation, but also have entertainment areas complete with local rides and cultural art forms as well as food outlets serving authentic regional food.


Thai Privilege eyes hotel in India

Thai Privilege Spa (TPS) is branching out into the hotel development business with a new venture in India, according to owner and chief executive Surangrat Chirathivat. She said that Agrigold Group of Industries, a major Indian conglomerate with interests in consumer products, food processing and power plants, had signed a memorandum of understanding with TPS last week to design and develop a spa villa in India.

Construction will start soon on the 200-room Siam Dheva Pura, a five-star boutique resort hotel, and be completed by the end of next year. It will be located on a 120-rai plot in Visakhapatnam, a city in the eastern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Mrs Surangrat said that under the new business partnership, Thai Privilege Spa was assigned to design all of the facilities at Siam Dheva Pura in a Thai boutique hotel style. The resort will also buy a spa franchise from TPS, which will manage the operation.

"It is our long-term plan to expand to the spa-related and hospitality business. This is also the first time we have expanded our business role into land development," Mrs Surangrat said.

She said the Agrigold Group was fascinated by Thai culture and that other Indian people were increasingly favouring Thai-style home decoration items.

Apart from the Siam Dheva Pura hotel, the company has already sold six Thai Privilege Spa franchises in India to businesses in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Pondichery, Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada. The first one will be opened by the end of this year.

Mrs Surangrat expects to hire about 80 people to operate the six spa projects. The company expects to gain about 24 million baht from franchise fees.

To prepare its new staff, the company will open a TPS academy to produce spa therapists. It is teaming up with the Vocational Education Commission and the Government Savings Bank to offer spa treatment and English language training and courses in Thai culture to prepare skilled employees for the business in the future.


Citi to invest $250m in Bangalore co Nitesh Estates

Citigroup is investing around $250 million in Bangalore-headquartered real estate major Nitesh Estates. However, the exact quantum of stake could not be ascertained.

The deal, the single-largest in India’s hospitality sector, will see Citi partner Nitesh in the latter’s hospitality foray, which involves setting up at least five luxury hotels, said sources close to the deal.

Citigroup Property Investors will invest directly from its global fund into holding entity Nitesh Estates as well as special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for setting up prop-erties, which may also include shopping malls. Citi’s Asia-Pacific real estate fund head David Schaefer led the investment into the 31-year-old Nitesh Shetty-managed realty group. However, Nitesh Estates executive director LS Vaidyanathan declined to comment on the deal.

Citigroup is picking up a minority stake in the holding company. Citi will, however, hold substantial stakes in individual SPVs setting up the chain of hotels, sources added.

The latest deal with Citigroup does not include India’s first Ritz-Carlton property, which Nitesh is developing in Bangalore. It is believed that Nitesh may be Ritz-Carlton’s preferred partner, not exclusive though, in India.

Along with Citi, Nitesh plans to develop five-star hotels in Goa, Kochi, Kolkata and Chennai, sources added.

This will be the fourth private equity deal being tied up by Nitesh in the past 30 months, and the third in the last one year. First, the US-based Siachen Capital invested $100 million through an SPV. This was followed up by the 25% stake sale in the parent company to the $26 billion global hedge fund Och-Ziff, for $51 million. Subsequently, Citi invested $35 million into an SPV for the Ritz-Carlton project in Bangalore.

Currently, Nitesh Estates has over 8 million sq ft under construction across seg-ments like residential, hospitality, commercial and shopping malls. Nitesh Group, as part of a backward integration move, is also getting into construction as well as infrastructure with separate entities being set up for the same.

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CII to organise Int'l Hospitality & Allied Industries Fair

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is organising International Hospitality Fair (IHF) 2007, a B2B fair for the hospitality and allied industry from October 8 to11, 2007 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The inaugural session of the Fair will be attended by Mr. Tejendra Khanna, Lt. Governor, Delhi as the Chief Guest and Mr. Arvinder Singh Lovely, Minister of Tourism, Delhi as Guest of Honour.

IHF 2007 would provide a comprehensive forum for all the key elements of the hospitality and allied industries and would be an ideal business platform to meet the sourcing needs for the latest in food & beverage, bakery, food service, hospitality equipment, products, services and technology.

Culinary Challenge would be part of IHF 2007 from 8th to 11th October as a concurrent event with teams representing different hotel/restaurant chains. This challenge would take shape under the guidance of Chef Manjit Singh Gill of ITC Group of Hotels and a panel of renowned Judges would judge the competition. Chef Gill will also steer the Pastry Challenge from 9th to 11th October during the Fair.

The exhibitors would be allowed to offer different kinds of wine for tasting at their booths in addition to separate wine tasting sessions.

Mr. Lalit Bhasin, Managing Partner, Bhasin & Co. would moderate an Interactive Session on “Legal Issues in Hospitality Industry” on 8th October. Leading advocates Ms. Anusuya Salwan, Mr. Gyanendra Mishra and Mr. Mansoor Adil of Sarovar Park Plaza are the key panellists for the session.

General Managers Session would be held on 9th October during the event with an interactive session involving General Managers of leading hotels. The faculty of this section would include Mr. Francis Wacziarg of Neemrana Hotels, Ms. Renu Basu of Taj Hotels, Mr. Deepak Mowar of Parsvnath Group and Mr. Kapil Chopra of Trident Hotel.

Mr. Anil Ghei of Ascot Hotels would guide the teams from hotels and pubs for the Bartending Competition on 10th October along with a seminar on Revenue Management. In association with Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), the seminar would focus on hospitality as well as aviation professionals and will enhance their skills in revenue optimization and other allied issues.

Interactive Session on “The Looming Crisis – Trained Manpower Shortage” would be organised on 10th October. Mr. Noni Chawla of Omni Consult, Mr. N. S. Bhuie of National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Mr. Ashoke Bhalla of ITC Ltd. and Dr. Roy C. Wood of The Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development will be part of the panel.

Interactive Session on “Financing, Equity and Operating Options for Hospitality Industry” on 10th October would be moderated by Mrs. Archana Capoor, Chairperson & Managing Director, TFCI. Other key speakers of the session will be Mr Prem Subramaniam of Infrastructure Development Finance Co. Ltd. and Mr. Sanjay Sethi of Berggruen Hotels.


Asiana Hotels unveils luxury property in Chennai

Asiana Hotels Pvt Ltd has launched its first property here. The 114-room new property has been developed on 2.25 acres of land on Old Mahabalipuram Road at an investment of Rs 100 crore.

According to Shri Sriharan, Managing Director and CEO of the company, the hotel will address the high-end business and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) segments, both national and international. Positioned as a luxury business hotel, it provides IP (Internet protocol) phones in all the rooms and free Internet access to its guests with WI-FI access throughout the hotel.

Asiana expects around 60 to 65 per cent occupancy in the first year of operations, says Shafee Ahmed, Director (Sales & Marketing). “Though we target corporates, predominantly IT companies in this stretch, the property will also cater to the leisure segment as this is away from the bustling city,” says Ahmed.

To cash in on the growing demand for travel accommodation, the company is also drawing up plans for a national footprint with hotel projects in major cities in the country. The first phase of expansion will see hotels in tier II cities including Rameswaram, Karaikudi, Tiruchi and Salem in Tamil Nadu. The expansion project will be jointly funded by NRIs, said Sriharan.


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